Saturday, January 4, 2014

Zia Pueblo in Need of Parrot and Macaw Feathers



All my bird's molted feathers go to communities that use them for cultural purposes. I was fortunate to visit  two Pueblos and learn what a deep and meaningful gift this is to them.  The following is a special guest post by Celestino Gachupin (Natural Resources Director, former Governor, Pueblo of Zia) about how your unwanted feathers can have an important impact on an ancient culture. ~ Barbara

The Pueblo of Zia Indian Tribe in central New Mexico is one of the most traditional in the Southwest. Over the centuries we have maintained our cultural practices, a glue that binds our community together and to the land. The 122,000 acre Pueblo is situated in the steep mountains slopes and canyons of the Sierra Nacimiento Mountains. The geographic diversity of our homeland is stunning. (Even though you don’t realize it, you may have seen our Pueblo. As part of our economic development plan, we have an active location film set. The movies Wyatt Earp, The Missing, All the Pretty Horses, Dead or Alive, Desperado II, and the TV shows Earth 2 and New Eden were filmed in part or entirely on the Zia Reservation.)

Despite the strength and resilience of our culture, one element is in short supply: parrot and macaw feathers. As part of our cultural and religious dress and obligations, we use many types of bird feathers, including an abundance of these feathers. One might well wonder how a tribe many hundreds of miles outside the range of these birds has such a reverence for them. Our millennia old oral history relates the our origin and migration, which includes a deep connection with a band of our ancestors that migrated to Central and South America. 

This oral history is backed up by archaeological evidence. Well-documented routes from southern Mexico, and parrot and macaw feathers unearthed at archaeological sites all over the Southwestern United States bear testament to the well-developed north-south trade. Macaws were moved from deep in Mesoamerica to southern New Mexico in a trip of about eight weeks. A second leg of the journey branching out to various Pueblos and sites in northern and New Mexico and Arizona brought the birds to their final homes. Young macaws were carried in baskets, protected from chilling, and fed chewed hominy, often directly from the keeper’s mouth, every few hours, day and night.  This early feeding relationship results in human-imprinted birds that are attached to their keeper. Ancient pottery motifs and the age of skeletal remains suggest that juvenile macaws were carried to these sites, raised there for almost a year, and then traded north just in time for religious ceremonies at the spring equinox. Many hundreds of macaw remains have been recovered from Zia and other Pueblo sites around New Mexico.  A much more detailed and fascinating article on this history can be found on page 20 of Ancient Knowledge of the Chaco Canyon Anasazi 

We treat cultural artifacts with great reverence, storing them in cedar boxes. Nevertheless, wear and tear, and additional use as one-time offerings mean a constant need for more feathers. We are grateful for any contributions, which are completely legal in the United States. Please send parrot and macaw feathers of any color and size (even very small feathers are appreciated and used). Send them in an envelope or tube mailer to the following address:


Celestino Gachupin
1087 Zia BLvd
Zia Pueblo, NM  87053-6028

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

To clarify, does this include smaller feathers such as from the conure, or just large parrots?

Barbara Heidenreich said...

They love small feathers too. Even the ones that are molted from chest and head.

LiL Caity said...

This is so awesome!! I've saved parrot feathers for years and wondered what I would be allowed to do with them. I am glad to know that they can be legally mailed this way, and to a place where people will appreciate them.