Message #69
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 

Date: Mon, 23 Feb 1998
Subject: Zuni Runoff Agriculture

[ AzTeC / SWA SASIG ] :

[ SASIG Ed Note -- contact the research team directly:
Jay Norton 406-728-7369; Jonathan Sandor 515-294-2209 ]

2 Hope To Revive Zuni Runoff Agriculture

Ecologists Jay Norton and Jon Sandor have been studying
traditional Zuni runoff agriculture in the Southwest United
States and its potential as a long-term land conservation
strategy as part of the Ecosystem and Soil Studies of Native
America Runoff Agriculture research project. Along with
Roman Pawluk, a researcher for the Zuni Sustainable
Agriculture Project, the team is trying to combine scientific
research with indigenous knowledge to help create a viable,
contemporary agriculture at Zuni. Runoff agriculture, which
has been practiced for more than a millennium by Pueblo
Indians and other tribes in the Southwest to grow corn, takes
advantage of runoff water from intense, localized summer
rainstorms. By diverting and spreading stormwater from the
uplands onto well-placed agricultural fields, crops are
supplied water and nutrients naturally, without the use of
fertilizer or irrigation systems. "Zuni's centuries-old
farming society has been drastically disrupted by nearly 100
years of agricultural development that has essentially
disregarded the unique knowledge of local farmers," explains
Norton. "Most runoff fields are abandoned and much of the
unique knowledge is in danger of being lost." Zuni agriculture
has declined in the last century due to a variety of social
and economic factors, a major one being the continued
development of conventional agriculture. When irrigation
reservoirs were built and lands were reallocated into
irrigable crop fields and grazing lands, the Zuni's found
their land tenure system disrupted. These problems prevented
much of the land from being used for runoff farming. In an
effort to revive traditional Zuni farming techniques, Pawluk
has been researching the agricultural knowledge of the Zuni
people while Sandor and Norton have been examining the
long-term ecological effects of runoff agriculture on the land.
Sandor and Norton's research recently revealed that soil quality
remains high even after centuries of Zuni agriculture, though
soils with less than 100 years of conventional agriculture show
drastic declines in soil quality. The team's future research
will focus on the potential for runoff farming to alleviate the
expensive erosion, sedimentation and flooding problems plaguing
the area, while helping the Zuni farmers revitalize traditional
farming as a productive industry on the reservation. "Now," says
Norton, "as Zuni farmers once again take charge of their own
resources and reintroduce modernized versions of time-tested
traditional technologies, they can re-establish the
centuries-old balance with their dynamic environment." For more
information, contact Karine Thate, Ecological Society of America,

From: Wolky Toll 
Subject: RE: Zuni Runoff Agriculture

For SASIG readership interested in Zuni (and other
Southwestern) Agriculture there are articles about
Zuni Agriculture by Tim Maxwell, Jon Sandor, David
Rhode, and Carol Brandt in New Mexico Archaeological
Council Special Publication Number 2.  Copies are
still available from New Mexico Archaeological Council.

Wolky Toll