Native American Sculptures

Since prehistoric times, Native American sculptures have been very popular.  Archeologists have found many carvings such as fetishes.  Fetishes are the Native American sculptures or carvings of animals that are often used in religious ceremonies.  The Native Americans believe that these fetishes have supernatural energies.  Many times today, especially the Zuni still carve fetishes. This beautiful art form may be decorated with stones, shells, and feathers.



The earliest form of Native American sculptures such as fetishes were what the Zuni tribe called Ahlashiwe.  The Zuni believe that these sculptures were real animals that had been turned to stone by the sons of the Sun Father.  This meant their life force was still inside the stone and these fetishes were treated as very powerful.  Fetishes were also seen as powerful because they connected us to our planet and the Native Americans believed that everything had an invisible spirit and therefore held powers.  These Ahlashiwe served as a connection for the Zuni people to the spirit world. 

The animal sculptures were believed to have contained the spirit of the animal it represented. The Zuni believe there were six animals that represented the six directions.  The mountain lion represents the north.  This fetish can be used to protect people going on long journey or working on long term projects.  The wolf represents the east.  This fetish helps one when searching for game, but also when searching for answers to their destiny.  The badger represents the south.  This fetish helps people find the correct herbs for healing ailments.  The bear represents the west.  This fetish too involves healing, but not only the body, but also the spirit.  The mole represents the earth.  This fetish can be used to protect crops.  The eagle represents the sky.  This fetish also involved healing, but it can take one into the spirit world where they can seek answers to questions about healing.

Some Native American sculptures will have a coral heart line on both sides.  This heart line usually runs from the mouth or nose to where the heart lies. An arrowhead may symbolize the heart line or life force.  Some fetishes may also come with decorations such as turquoise, coral, an arrowhead, or feathers.  These are considered offerings to evoke the spirit of the fetish.

The Native Americans view the fetishes as many view saints or a sacred statue.  It can be used when you need to pray or meditate.  The animal fetish also reminds us that we all need aid with challenges from time to time.  In addition, we realize that all things live are interconnected with each other.

Recently, Native Americans have been using limestone, alabaster, and other natural materials to create stone carvings.  These are created for artistic display rather than for ceremonial reasons.  The Native American sculptures often portray every day life in a very realistic manner and are much more contemporary than the fetishes of the past.  Some of the newer Native American sculptures are busts that portray people such as Princess Evening Star and the Supreme Medicine Man of the Wampanoag Nation, John Peters.

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