This weekend we had the chance to experience the Museum of Northern Arizona‘s Zuni Festival from the point of view of volunteers. Friday night was Member’s Night and I worked the silent auction table while Jay helped out in the kitchen. Member’s Night is always my favorite. I always see people I know and the museum members come out in style, wearing fantastically elaborate Native American made jewelry. The elite museum members will actually wear pieces of jewelry that were made by artists at the show. Of course, as a volunteer at the silent auction table you have the opportunity to compliment the women and hear the story of each piece of jewelry and the artist who made it.
I also love working the silent auction table because you have the chance to get to know the other volunteers at the table. As a team, you are responsible for an important fundraiser, and the silent auction volunteers take their role seriously. We pay attention to how the pieces are presented, try to encourage bidding, and watch the clock carefully, making announcements about how many minutes are left to bid. It’s a fun volunteer opportunity and I look forward to the Hopi and Navajo Festivals later this summer.
The Zuni tribe is from Zuni, New Mexico, just over the border from Arizona east of here. In addition to making pots and jewelry, they make what are referred to as fetishes. These are small carvings of animals, made from stone. These days they buy the materials at mineral and gem shows and then use a large motorized grinding wheel to carve the figures. The carvings are adorable, some as small as a large blueberry. Each animal has a story and represents something. Common animal fetishes are badgers, bears, eagles, and turtles.
The Zuni Festival is the smallest heritage festival at MNA, but the event was well attended and the artists brought outstanding work to sell. We were also excited to see more young people involved in the dances. I was told that the dancing traditions had skipped a generation, with the older generation finding little interest from their daughters, they started passing down the tradition to their granddaughters. I don’t know if this is true, but it was supported by the age range of who was performing.