New Mexico: Zia


The Zia Pueblo was settled around 1250 AD. During its heyday in the 16th and 17th centuries, it was one of the largest Pueblos with over 6,000 Indians. At that time, it had 8 plazas and was at the center of Indian trade routes. Their two- and three-story adobe homes surrounded the plaza.   

The Zia people were thought to have come from the Anasazi near Chaco Canyon. The great drought in the early 13th century fueled a mass migration toward the edge of the Colorado Plateau, which resulted in their present-day settlement. 

The central location of the Zia caused them a lot of problems – Navajo and Apache raiders were a constant threat. The Spanish first came in 1541 and interfered with their spiritual ways. Consequently, te Zia joined in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Unfortunately, the Spanish returned eight years later to destroy most of the Zia community. In 1692, the Zia accepted mass baptism and became Roman Catholics; however, they also maintained their spiritual traditions.  

Successful dry land farmers, the Zia could sustain large populations by growing corn, beans, squash and melons. They imported irrigation technology to help make their farmlands more productive. The Spanish then introduced livestock, and today ranching is the major contributor to the Zia economy rather than farming.  

Zia is known as the home of the sun symbol that New Mexico uses on its state flag. The current design is one that has long been a trademark of Zia pottery. The people here speak Keresan and many still have the ever-present horno (outdoor mud ovens) in their yards for baking bread.  


The Zia faithfully adhere to their traditions. The Zia people are still known today for their arts and crafts like watercolor paintings and unpolished redware pottery with white slip. While the traditional language is Keresan, some residents speak Spanish, Navajo and/or English.  

Some nearby attractions include hot springs, a variety of lodges and resorts, a national preserve and a casino. The tribe operates a senior center, library, social services department and more. They also have the Zia Health Clinic operate by the Indian Health Service (I.H.S.), including general medicine and specialized care for diabetes, women’s health, pediatrics and audiology. They also partner with the Zia Community Health Representatives (CHRs). 

Today’s population in the pueblo is over 870 people, and the tribe has about 479 enrolled members. The median income is $48,125 and the poverty rate is 14.9%.