Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Westering 16: Zuni Carving (Part 1 of 3)
The Word of Eagles

Through the Navajo and past Gallup, I rode to Zuni. Stopping at the Visitor Center, I checked in, opting not to purchase a camera permit though. Earlier I had decided that for this visit, I wished only to purchase souvenirs directly from the people. I would take photographs while in Acoma and Taos, but here, I would experience the Zuni, with no lens between that encounter.

At the Pueblo of Zuni gallery, I took a first look at the jewelry and carvings created by various pueblo artists. The stone mosaic earrings were stunning. The silver work was incandescent. Still, I told Andy, the shopkeeper, that I was going to check out some other stores. He understood, but warned that the larger stores up the road were actually owned by Arabs, and not Zunis. And I’ll give you a better price, he promised.

I pulled over at one of the “Arab” stores, and was stopped before I climbed its stairs by a friendly enough, although worse for wear, Zuni named Averell. He offered me a deal on two carvings. Thirty dollars, and direct from a Zuni, not from an Arab, who only gives us less than half, he said. But it was the eagle carving he exhibited that piqued my interest. It was exactly what I had come for; I wondered how much for that one alone. Twenty dollars, he said. I knew I could have bargained down to ten, and certainly fifteen, but something held me back from doing so. This eagle had come to me from another nation and I’d gladly pay the necessary duty.

The carver of the piece, his brother, was sitting in a pick-up truck nearby. Averell introduced me to him, and I told Jamie how flawless I thought his carving to be, but that I had to visit an ATM first for cash. No problem, he said, there’s one right down the road. I went to hand him back the carving, saying, I promise I’ll be right back. Keep it, he said. Are you sure, I asked.

Hey, he looked at me with confidence, as one who knows the invaluable meaning of one’s word, I’m Zuni.

~Son Rivers 2008

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