America Unearthed's Zuni Elder Is an Ancient Astronaut Theorist, Believes Aliens Have Underground Base
Today I’d like to talk about Zuni elder Clifford Mahooty since I did not have the time to explore his background in sufficient detail in my review of America Unearthed S02E05 (about an alleged 1909 discovery of an Egyptian city in the Grand Canyon, drawn from an Arizona Gazette newspaper hoax). It really deserves its own post anyway. I keep making the mistake of giving America Unearthed the benefit of the doubt, and I need to learn that every single thing on the show is completely misrepresented, and usually fake.
I think it’s important to begin by stating up front what I just discovered: that Clifford Mahooty is not exactly what the show portrays him to be. While he is in fact a former Zuni official, he is today best known as an ancient astronaut theorist and has appeared on Ancient Aliens to discuss “star beings,” Pueblo gods he considers space aliens who genetically engineered the Zuni. Needless to say, traditional Native American beliefs do not include the idea that humans were genetically engineered by magic space beings from another dimension.
Mahooty travels the “alternative” science conference circuit promoting fringe science topics ranging from UFOs to hollow earth theory to mystical healing. Mahooty believes that Zuni myth records star gates that lead through hidden dimensions to a civilization deep in the hollow earth. He believes that the Tibetans colonized Zuni lands, and that a UFO crash-landed on the Zuni reservation in the 1930s. (I added a brief acknowledgement of this and a link to this blog post to my review so it is on record there as well.) America Unearthed failed to disclose Mahooty’s lucrative business in promoting extraterrestrial Native “mysteries” on TV, on radio, and at speaking engagements, just as it failed to disclose Harry Hubbard’s financial involvement in the Burrows Cave affair.
So let me repeat: The very first Native American America Unearthed ever chose to speak with is an ancient astronaut theorist who believes that the government is covering up the truth about ancient aliens who have a secret base in the hollow earth and frequently abducted the Zuni to take them to other planets.
Worse, even after using the testimony of a man who is punch drunk on fringe science claims (he admits to being a big fan of fringe science books, especially UFO books), they still failed to get him to say what they claim he said. I noticed at the time that the interview had been heavily edited, and I guess we now know why.
In the episode, Mahooty tells Wolter that the Grand Canyon is sacred to the Pueblo peoples as their place of origin, “where our forefathers and ancient ones came out of.” Wolter asks if the Zuni creation myth talks about mysterious caves, particularly the one with Egyptian artifacts. Mahooty responds:
In our spiritual teachings, there are actually rooms inside the Grand Canyon and there’s several passageways, so that parallels with some of the history about the early 1900s and also about some of the treasures that a lot of Indian tribes talks (sic) about.
Note that even Mahooty won’t say that actual Zuni oral histories say anything about the alleged 1909 Smithsonian expedition. Wolter asks what’s in the caves. Mahooty responds:
I’ve heard a lot of different stories from different tribes that talk about these treasures that are supposedly in there. But then I heard about a pyramid that’s supposedly inside the Grand Canyon.
Note that Mahooty states this as secondhand information. The story of the pyramid he doesn’t even attribute to other tribes, but rather to something he’s “heard,” almost certainly from tourists influenced by David Childress and David Icke. Scratch that. He heard it directly from David Childress, with whom he conducted an exploration of the Zuni reservation for evidence of Tibetans, as per the 1909 newspaper hoax, and aliens.
Wolter, however, does not pick up on the secondhand nature of this testimony and paraphrases Mahooty as confirming that “oral stories” confirm the existence of a “city” and “pyramids” in the Grand Canyon. Mahooty does not correct him but instead expresses his own belief in Childress’s myth-making:
I absolutely believe in that because there’s been a lot of different crossing of different cultures in this part of the world. It’s my understanding that there’s a lot of Egyptian-type relics and artifacts that were taken from inside the Grand Canyon.
Note again the passive voice. Mahooty isn’t providing independent confirmation of Native American knowledge of Egyptians in the Grand Canyon. He’s repeating what people (specifically Childress) have told him based on the 1909 newspaper hoax! He never once attributes any of the “Egyptian” mysteries to actual Zuni oral tradition.
Mahooty finishes by telling Wolter that he believes many treasures and artifacts of past civilizations remain in the canyon—undoubtedly true since excavations of ancestral Pueblo sites continue to this day.
Note, though, how Wolter purposely twists Mahooty’s words, first to support the idea that Native American oral histories confirm the 1909 article—which Mahooty never said—and then to make a bizarre claim Mahooty never implied on camera:
At the Grand Canyon I heard from a descendant of some of Arizona’s earliest inhabitants about encounters with ancient travelers from the East. It’s a story echoed by the earliest European explorers, who found clues to an Egyptian voyage that I think the government may be covering up.
None of that was in the episode itself, and there is no way to judge this seemingly bizarre assertion since the producers excised whatever “evidence” supposedly supported it. As a point of fact, Native Americans do preserve oral histories of contact with the Spanish, but there is nothing in the anthropological literature about contact with Egyptians. By contrast, Mahooty is on record claiming that the “travelers from the East” (the Kachina) are space aliens:
The original visitors were the actual beings that came from different parts of the universe. The way that they used to come here was that, and I’ve stated this many times, it’s like that “Star Trek.” Remember when they, that beam me up Scotty type thing?
He also claims that the aliens routinely abduct the Zuni. Funny how these claims, which Mahooty always delivers in his remarks, according to a review of recordings of his speeches, didn’t make it to broadcast on America Unearthed, falsely giving the impression that Mahooty is more credible than he is. Other Zuni elders disagree with Mahooty’s fanciful UFO interpretation of Zuni mythology.
This is yet another example of America Unearthed purposely leaving out important information to misrepresent speakers’ views and manipulate the narrative.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter, The Skeptical Xenoarchaeologist, for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities, and subscribe to Culture & Curiosities, my Substack newsletter.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.