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Sacred Bear Newsletter

All About Fetishes

Fetishes are small carvings made out of different materials by the Native America Indians. These carvings serve a ceremonial purpose. The fetishes often depict animals and icons that are integral to Native America cultures. Collectors worldwide search for these forms of contemporary Native American art.

Many Native American Tribes create fetishes. The best known fetish carvers are the Zuni, who call themselves Asiwi (Ah-she-wee). The Zuni believe that animals have powers and are more like deities. Fetishes contain both the practical and spiritual power of the animals they represent. Fetishes may be carried, displayed or buried to release their power. Typically, Zuni fetishes were created out of materials that were indigenous to their region or acquired by trade. Materials include: jet, turquoise, mother-of-pearl, coral, fishrock, marble, bone, and even elk antler. Modern carvers use many nontraditional materials which allow them to extend more the color and subject matter of their carvings. 

The Zuni have used fetishes for many purposes. A few are listed below:

  • To help hunters to catch more game.
  • To make game more plentiful.
  • As an aid to healing.
  • To protect aid individuals.
  • To protect and aid the community.