The Meaning of the Zia Symbol

The Zia are an indigenous Native American people of northern New Mexico, known for their distinctive sun symbol. The Zia symbol consists of a red circle with various rays pointing in four directions.


Four is a sacred number of the Zia culture. It is associated with the four compass directions, seasons of weather, stages of life, periods of each day, and important sacred obligations honored within its society. The Zia society believed that the development of a strong body, clear mind, pure spirit and devotion to the welfare of family and community were obligations of each individual. The Zia symbol is found in much of the pottery of the Zia Pueblo. It is also the predominant feature of the New Mexico state flag, and is incorporated into the state’s license plates and highway markers.


Its appearance on the New Mexico state flag is, by state statute, explicit in design and proportion. “The symbol shall be the ancient Zia sun symbol of red in the center of a field of yellow. The colors shall be the red and yellow of old Spain. Said symbol shall have four groups of rays set at right angles; each group shall consist of four rays, the two inner rays of the group shall be one-fifth longer than the outer rays of the group. The diameter of the circle in the center of the symbol shall be one-third of the width of the symbol.”

(New Mexico Statutes and Court Rules, Section 12-3-2)