Historically, all of the Southwest native peoples make and use fetishes. In fact, most North American indigenous peoples and even Europeans believed in an "object containing a spirit that provides supernatural assistance if treated with proper respect" (Bahti, Mark, Spirit in the Stone [Treasure Chest Books.)

The Zuni are probably the most well-known for their excellent fetishes, perhaps due, at least partially, to the study of them by Frank Cushing in the late Nineteenth Century. The Zuni fetishes are generally kept in a special fetish pot and ceremonially fed corn pollen. The animals are separated into the prey animals (such as a deer) and the hunting animals (such as a mountain lion). Particular animals and colors may make up a "set" representative of the powers in the four directions (or more than four, depending upon the tribe or pueblo).

According to Zuni tradition, the guardian animals of the six directions are: the mountain lion - north; the bear - west; the badger - south; the eagle - the sky; the mole - underground; and the wolf - east. In addition to animals, other objects, such as corn maiden fetishes, act as healers, protectors, and spiritual helpers. The kind and cost of the stone, size, intricacy of carving, polish, animal and beauty of the piece all go into determining the value of a fetish. Today, fetishes are bought as objects of art and as objects of medicine.

Whenever possible, we will try to put a short description of what the fetish represents, but bear in mind that each animal or color may mean something slightly different among the Navajo, Hopi or Pueblo peoples.

The Wonder of Native American Fetish Carvings

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