UNM works to preserve language of Zuni Pueblo

The University of New Mexico is leading the effort to preserve the language of the state’s biggest pueblo.

One student, along with UNM Libraries, has digitized Zuni language materials to reach a bigger audience.

“There’s nothing [else] like this. There’s no children’s books, posters or educational based need like this,” UNM Senior Arin Peywa said.

Peywa, who’s also a member of the Zuni Pueblo, was hired to transcribe and digitize educational materials along with members of the UNM Library.

The educational books and posters in the Zuni language published by the pueblo’s bilingual department are now posted to the UNM library website.

“There’s children’s books on there for children’s literacy, and then there are posters on there that teach others about the colors, the clans, the Zuni skeletal system and just different things like that.”

“We wanted to share it with folks who are not in Zuni,” UNM Education Librarian Sarah Kostelecky added.

This new resource is one way, Peywa said, we can help preserve the language of her pueblo.

Archeologists believe the pueblo, about 150 miles west of Albuquerque, has been around for 1,300 years.

“There are so many young adults and young children who need to learn the language. Otherwise, it will die out,” Peywa said. “And, without the Zuni language, there’s no Zuni culture.”

She said some of these materials are so sensitive to the Zuni culture that they aren’t transcribed in English on purpose, so only those who are fluent in the language can read them.

Just in November, the website has had over 1,000 views.

Peywa said she hopes to keep adding more educational materials to it in the future.

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