Revolution in Art

These two clay pots illustrate how Zuni women participated in the cultural revival that accompanied the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

A:shiwi (Zuni) Sh. Ashiwi Polychrome Water Jar

A:shiwi (Zuni) Sh. Ashiwi Polychrome Water Jar, ca. 1630–1690. National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, 10/1681. Photo by NMAI Photo Services.

She-we-na (Zuni Pueblo) (Native American). Ashiwi Polychrome Water Jar

She-we-na (Zuni Pueblo) (Native American). Ashiwi Polychrome Water Jar, ca. 1700–1750. Pottery, slip. Brooklyn Museum, Museum Expedition 1903, Museum Collection Fund, 03.325.4739. Photo, Brooklyn Museum.


In 1680, the Native people who lived in the territory that the Spanish claimed as the province of Santa Fe de Nuevo México rose up to overthrow the Spanish colonizers. In the uprising that became known as the Pueblo Revolt, the united tribes of the Northern Tiwa, Tewa, Towa, Tano, Keres, Pecos, Zuni, and Hopi killed 400 Spanish colonials and drove the remaining 2,000 out of the area. The revolt was so successful that it took the Spanish government over a decade to regroup and reclaim the territory.

About the Object

The Pueblo Revolt was not just an armed uprising. Participating tribes also experienced a cultural revolution in which they rejected Spanish influences and returned to pre-European contact traditions. This can be seen in the pottery created by Zuni women during and after the revolt. The first pot pictured above was made while the fighting was occurring. The designs look hurried, misshapen, and simplistic, which speaks to the anxiety and anguish that Pueblo women experienced during the revolt. But the symbols on the pot are traditional; the artist left out the crosses and other Catholic insignia that Spanish overseers demanded from Zuni craftswomen. Thus, despite its imperfections, this pot represents the return to traditional practices that characterized the cultural side of the Pueblo Revolt.

The second water jug was made after the Pueblo Revolt and tells the story of a healing community. It has an asymmetrical design and is covered in clean, crisp lines, which indicates that the artist had time and comfort in which she could perfect her work. The red, black, and brown pigments used to construct the pot took time and effort to produce, another indication that this jug was made in an era of peace and stability. And the patterns on the pot incorporate even more traditional Zuni designs and symbols, like the brown and black feather motif, which show that Zuni artists continued to explore and honor their cultural traditions even after the initial crisis of the revolt was over.


  • Pueblo Revolt: The 1680 uprising of Native people in the American Southwest against Spanish colonizers.
  • Zuni: One of the tribes of people who lived in the American Southwest prior to European contact. Today the Zuni live in Western New Mexico.


  • She-we-na: SHI-weh-nuh
  • Zuni Pueblo: ZOO-nee Pueblo

Discussion Questions

  • What differences do you notice between these two pots? What can we infer from these differences?
  • What do these pots reveal about the role women played in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680?
  • Why is the study of material culture particularly important in constructing the history of North American Native people? What challenges are inherent in this approach to studying the past?

Suggested Activities

  • Use these objects to introduce your students to the basic practices of artifact analysis. What details do they notice on the pots? What information can be inferred from those details? What can we learn by comparing objects from different eras of Zuni history?
  • Combine these objects with the story of the gateras for a lesson about the ways Native women resisted and adapted to Spanish colonial government.
  • Combine the image of the Zuni pots with the images of the digging stick, the cradleboard, and the story of the gateras for a lesson on the labor of women in Native communities.
  • Native people across North and South America had a variety of responses to the arrival of European colonizers. Combine the Zuni pots with any of the resources below, and ask the students to write about the differences in each woman’s engagement with European colonizers and the outcomes they achieved: Life Story: Weetamoo, Life Story: Malitzen (La Malinche), Life Story: The Gateras of Quito, Life Story: Kateri Tekakwitha, and Life Story: Quashawam.
  • Explore the artistic process used to make Pueblo pottery through the making of coil-construction clay pots, and discover the skills needed to create a pot that considers aesthetics, function, and tradition. Students will also reflect on the art-making process and consider how it might have felt for Zuni women to construct these pots during a time of uprising and revolution.



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