Almost everything people know today about Zuni Fetishes (carving of animals made of rock and shell) is from the work of Frank Hamilton Cushing. He was an anthropologist and lived with the Zuni people while on an expedition for the Bureau of Ethnology.
He was admitted to a secret Zuni Society and, when his report for the Bureau was published in 1881, the Zuni people thought he had betrayed their trust. He was the last white man to be initiated into the Zuni Warrior Society.
Meanings of Native American Fetishes
The carvings represent spiritual meanings to the Zuni as well as acting as protectors. Most of the older Southwestern Native people that I know, Navajo, Apache and Pueblo, carry a fetish with them in a pouch filled with corn meal. It is a part of their lives.
Today, they are also considered art and are collected by people all over the world, much as the Hopi Kachina carvings are considered as both part of the religion and as an art form.
We have a wonderful selection of fetish carvings from both Navajo and Zuni carvers that represent a wide variety of animals. They make wonderful and unique gifts.
Of course, many people have written about or studied the subject of fetishes. Two of the best books are Spirit in the Stone by Mark Bahti and Zuni Fetishes and Carvings by Kent McManis.
We also recommend reading Cushing’s work, Zuni Fetishes. It is short and fascinating.