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“Zuni Salt Lake through the Lens of Time”

Southwest Crossroads Spotlight

Oñate Inscription at Inscription Rock“Oñate Inscription at Inscription Rock,” Ralph H. Anderson (Photographer)

In 1598, when Juan de Oñate colonized New Mexico, he sent Marcos Farfán to explore Zuni Salt Lake. Farfán reported that the lake was a marvelous thing; the entire surface was encrusted with salt, except for a place in the center where water bubbled up; a person could easily walk on it without breaking through, and to obtain a sample it had been necessary to use a pickax. He declared it the finest saline in the world and said that not even the Spanish king enjoyed salt of such excellent grain. Barbara Tedlock is an anthropologist who has spent much time at Zuni sharing experiences with Zuni friends and acquaintances. One section of her book, The Beautiful and the Dangerous: Encounters with the Zuni Indians, is about Salt Lake, one of Zuni's oldest and most sacred sites. Salt is essential to all life. Salt Lake is the legendary home of Old Lady Salt. Tedlock describes Salt Lake as her Zuni friend Hapiya sees it today and as an Anglo salt miner sees it. Today, the State of New Mexico owns the mineral rights to Salt Lake. The Santa Fe New Mexican has reported on the Zuni effort to save this sacred site for their religious ceremonies.