NATIVE AMERICAN WISDOM

 

American Indian Commandments
Sacred Instructions Given By The Creator To Native People At The Time Of Creation

Treat the Earth and all that dwell thereon with respect.
Remain close to the Great Spirit.
Show great respect for your fellow beings.
Work together for the benefit of all Mankind.
Give assistance and kindness wherever needed.
Do what you know to be right.
Look after the well being of mind and body.
Dedicate a share of your efforts to the greater good.
Be truthful and honest at all times.
Take full responsibility for your actions.

Navajo Pendant – First People

Native Code of Ethics
1. Each morning upon rising, and each evening before sleeping, give thanks for the life within you and for all life, for the good things the Creator has given you and for the opportunity to grow a little more each day. Consider your thoughts and actions of the past day and seek for the courage and strength to be a better person. Seek for the things that will benefit others (everyone).

Zuni Man

2. Respect: Respect means “To feel or show honor or esteem for someone or something; to consider the well being of, or to treat someone or something with deference or courtesy”. Showing respect is a basic law of life.

Treat every person from the tiniest child to the oldest elder with respect at all times. Special respect should be given to Elders, Parents, Teachers, and Community Leaders.
No person should be made to feel “put down” by you; avoid hurting other hearts as you would avoid a deadly poison.
Touch nothing that belongs to someone else (especially Sacred Objects) without permission, or an understanding between you.

Respect the privacy of every person, never intrude on a person’s quiet moment or personal space.

Never walk between people that are conversing.

Lakota Stick

Never interrupt people who are conversing.

Speak in a soft voice, especially when you are in the presence of Elders, strangers or others to whom special respect is due.

Do not speak unless invited to do so at gatherings where Elders are present (except to ask what is expected of you, should you be in doubt).

Never speak about others in a negative way, whether they are present or not.

Treat the earth and all of her aspects as your mother. Show deep respect for the mineral world, the plant world, and the animal world. Do nothing to pollute our Mother, rise up with wisdom to defend her.

Navajo beaded bracelets – sacred animal world.

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Show deep respect for the beliefs and religion of others.

Listen with courtesy to what others say, even if you feel that what they are saying is worthless. Listen with your heart.

Respect the wisdom of the people in council. Once you give an idea to a council meeting it no longer belongs to you. It belongs to the people. Respect demands that you listen intently to the ideas of others in council and that you do not insist that your idea prevail. Indeed you should freely support the ideas of others if they are true and good, even if those ideas are quite different from the ones you have contributed. The clash of ideas brings forth the Spark of Truth.

Chief’s Pipe

3. Once a council has decided something in unity, respect demands that no one speak secretly against what has been decided. If the council has made an error, that error will become apparent to everyone in its own time.

4. Be truthful at all times, and under all conditions.

5. Always treat your guests with honor and consideration. Give of your best food, your best blankets, the best part of your house, and your best service to your guests.

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Sterling Silver Navajo Cup

6. The hurt of one is the hurt of all, the honor of one is the honor of all.

7. Receive strangers and outsiders with a loving heart and as members of the human family.

8. All the races and tribes in the world are like the different colored flowers of one meadow. All are beautiful. As children of the Creator they must all be respected.

9. To serve others, to be of some use to family, community, nation, and the world is one of the main purposes for which human beings have been created. Do not fill yourself with your own affairs and forget your most important talks. True happiness comes only to those who dedicate their lives to the service of others.

10. Observe moderation and balance in all things.

11. Know those things that lead to your well-being, and those things that lead to your destruction.

12. Listen to and follow the guidance given to your heart. Expect guidance to come in many forms; in prayer, in dreams, in times of quiet solitude, and in the words and deeds of wise Elders and friends.

Navajo Pin Pendant

This article is a reprint from the “Inter-Tribal Times” – October 1994

+++++++++++++

Love of the Land
The old people came literally to love the soil, and they sat or reclined on the ground with a feeling of being close to a mothering power. It was good for the skin to touch the earth, and the old people liked to remove their moccasins and walk with bare feet on the sacred earth.
Their tipis were built upon the earth and their altars were made of earth. The birds that flew in the air came to rest upon the earth, and it was the final abiding place of all things that lived and grew.
The soul was soothing, strengthening, cleansing, and healing. This is why the old Indian still sits upon the earth instead of propping himself up and away from its life-giving forces. For him, to sit or lie upon the ground is to be able to think more deeply and to feel more keenly.
He can see more clearly into the mysteries of life and come closer in kinship to other lives about him.
– Chief Luther Standing Bear –
Teton Sioux, Born 1868

Lakota Buffalo Stick

Native American Prayer
Oh, Great Spirit
Whose voice I hear in the winds,
And whose breath gives life to all the world,
hear me, I am small and weak,
I need your strength and wisdom.

Let me walk in beauty
and make my eyes ever behold the red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect the things your have made
and my ears sharp to hear your voice.
Make me wise so that I may understand
the things you have taught my people.
Let me learn the lessons you have
hidden in every leaf and rock.

Zuni Maiden

I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother,
but to fight my greatest enemy – myself.
Make me always ready to come to you
with clean hands and straight eyes.
So when life fades, as the fading sunset,
my Spirit may come to you without shame.

– Chief Yellow Lark –
Lakota –

Lakota Doll

What is Life
What is Life?
It is the flash of a firefly in the night.
It is the breath of a buffalo in the winter time.
It is the little shadow
which runs across the grass
and loses itself in the Sunset.
– Crowfoot –
Blackfoot Indian

Lakota Ledger Art

 

By Chief Seattle
“What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone,
Man would die from
a great loneliness of the spirit.
For whatever happens to the beasts
soon happens to man.”

Mother Earth Turtle Lakota Sage Bag

The Teaching of Tecumseh
Live your life that the fear of death
can never enter your heart.
Trouble no one about his religion.
Respect others in their views
and demand that they respect yours.
Love your life, perfect your life,
beautify all things in your life.
Seek to make your life long
and of service to your people.
Prepare a noble death song for the day
when you go over the great divide.
Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting
or passing a friend, or even a stranger,if in a lonely place
Show respect to all people, but grovel to none.
When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light,
for your life, for your strength.
Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living.
If you see no reason to give thanks,
the fault lies in yourself.
Touch not the poisonous firewater that makes wise ones turn to fools
and robs the spirit of its vision.
When your time comes to die, be not like those
whose hearts are filled with fear of death,
so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again
in a different way.
Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.

Zuni Warrior Maiden

Paula

Hallmarks on Mexican Silver Jewelry

A big part of my job is sorting through boxes of jewelry from estate lots or personal collections that come into the store where I work. The boxes are meant to contain only Native American jewelry but often there is southwest style costume jewelry and Mexican jewelry mixed in.

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I set aside the jewelry with Mexican hallmarks and when I get a batch, I research and list it in our Mexican Jewelry section.

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I thought it would be helpful to outline what I have learned about Mexican silver jewelry hallmarks.

First of all, deciphering Mexican hallmarks is an imperfect science. That is, while I will try to provide some guidelines, the system is not black and white, is not accurate. Hallmarks are sometimes used improperly or fraudulently, old hallmarks are mixed with new hallmarks, so in general, the results are often unreliable.

With that said, there is a very good reference book that will give you some help. The Little Book of Mexican Silver Trade and Hallmarks by Bille Hougart.

OK, forging ahead – here are some very general Mexico Silver hallmark guidelines from 1900, which is the age of most of the Mexican silver we get in our store:

During 1900-1948, there was no eagle hallmark. Most pieces were stamped MEXICO and either SILVER or STERLING. They might also have the name of the region such as TAXCO stamped as well as a silver purity such as 925, 950 etc.

From 1948-1980, eagle hallmarks were used to signify sterling content. If there was a an eagle, it was to guarantee the piece was at least of sterling content (.925). The eagle stamp was used with a number to designate origin. For example, 3 for Taxco, 1 for Mexico City (Distrito Federal). Numbers were also assigned to established silver shops.

In 1980, the eagle system was replaced with a Registration Number system. The number stamped on the items consisted of two letters, a dash, and a number.

The first letter represented a place, such as Taxco or another area or city.

The second letter represented the name of the maker, but it could be either the first of last name.

The number after the dash is simply that person’s registration number. Numbers were assigned in order of application for each 2 letter combo.

In recent years the registration system has deteriorated – through lack of enforcement and misuse –  so many makers no longer use it and instead sign their pieces with their own hallmarks – in my opinion, that is as it should be.

Below I am going to show some hallmarks from items that have passed through our store. Using the guidelines above, try to place them in the proper time period. Underneath them I will give my best guess of their age but I welcome input and feedback.

MEXICO SILVER – likely 1900-1948

MEXICO STERLING – likely 1900-1948

S.R. SILVER MADE IN MEXICO – likely 1900-1948

STERLING 925 TAXCO – likely 1900-1948

STERLING TAXCO MEXICO – likely 1900-1948

TAXCO 925 MEXICO DM- likely 1900-1948

TAXCO 925 – likely 1900-1948

Eagle with a 3; STERLING TAXCO MEXICO cCc in center – likely 1948-1980

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Eagle with an illegible number; PLATA 0925 GUAD MEX – likely 1948-1980

925 MEXICO TR-151 The T stands for Taxco; R is for either the first or last name of the maker and 151 means he was the 151st person to register a TR hallmark – likely made after 1980

a hand and HECHO A MANO 925. The hallmark of contemporary artist Manuel Porcayo Figueroa. Contemporary.

Because of the unreliable nature of Mexican stamps, we have found quite a number of items stamped Sterling or 925 do not test positive for sterling silver using a simple acid test. Therefore we test all items in spite of their hallmarks before we list them in our Mexican Shop. We provide all the hallmark information we can discern from each piece even though we are often not able to attribute it to a particular individual.

A side note – another common metal used in Mexican jewelry is alpaca which is an alloy made of nickel, zinc and copper. Often you will see the work ALPACA stamped on such items. But I’ve found that alpaca items are sometimes stamped 925, thus our rigorous testing policy.

Paula

Knifewing – Native American Diety

Who is Knifewing?

Knifewing, also Knife Wing, is a half man – half eagle Zuni spirit or god with razor sharp feathers made of flint. He is the ultimate warrior.

Unmarked vintage knifewing pin

Anthropologist Frank Hamilton Cushing, who lived with the Zunis from 1879-1884 described knifewing this way:

“This curious god is the hero of hundreds of folklore tales, the tutelary deity of several societies of Zuni. He is represented as possessing a human form, furnished with flint knife-feathered pinions, and tail. His dress consists of the conventional terraced cap (representative of his dwelling place among the clouds). His weapons are the Great Flint-Knife of War, the Bow of the Skies (the Rainbow), and the Arrow of Lightning. His guardians or warriors are the Great Mountain Lion of the North and that of the upper regions. He was doubtless the original War God of the Zunis.”

From the Encyclopedia of Native American Jewelry by Paula Baxter:

Baxter

Baxter

From North American Indian Jewelry and Adornment by Dubin

Dubin

Dubin

Horace Iule (also known for his crosses) is credited with creating the first knifewing design in the late 1920s, cut and filed out of hand-wrought silver.

Read more about Horace Iule in The Navajo and Pueblo Silversmiths by Adair

Adair

Adair

Adair

Afterwards, other Zuni, Navajo and Pueblo began producing knifewing designs.

The knifewing became one of the first designs that the Zuni inlaid with stones. An interesting excerpt from Zuni – a Village of Silversmiths

Zuni – a Village of Silversmiths

In this slide show, there are three vintage kinfewing inlay bracelet examples. To see more details on them, visit our Vintage Bracelet section. 

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Below is a slide show of a Sterling silver box with inlay knifewing by Suzie James Navajo

Paula

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Meet Monty Claw and his Unique Jewelry

Monty Claw

We are so happy to have met Monty Claw and feature some of his unique jewelry in our webstore.

Navajo artist Monty Claw is largely self-taught although he did study at The Institute of American Indian Arts.

He has worked in many mediums including leather and beadwork, making feather fans, painting and silversmithing.       

See two of Monty’s fans below in this slide show   – for more details, see Fans on our website. 

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Monty Claw and his work have been featured in a number of publications including The Smithsonian Magazine and Native Peoples Magazine.

Monty’s pieces appear in museum quality collections such as Nelson Atkins, The Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The Denver Art Museum, The Sam Noble Museum, and Musée Du Quai Branly in Paris, France. Watch the slide show below to see some of his museum quality pieces. 

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Although he has only been a full time jeweler since 2011 he has already started accumulating awards: SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market, The Heard Museum Indian Market, and Cherokee Art Market in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Today Monty focuses mainly on jewelry and metalsmithing and specializes in tufa cast pieces. He creates amazing works of silver and gold occasionally set with precious gems like turquoise, coral, and diamonds. But truth be told, he really prefers to work in all metal.

He enjoys creating sculptural pieces that look like they are going to walk or fly off a ring or bracelet and come to life.

His pieces are unique, with singularly creative details. His ideas range from traditional to beyond modern, from beautiful to edgy, from simple classics to groundbreaking creations. He creates many pieces related to animal and spiritual beings. Click on the photos below to see more views and dimensions.

First People

Yei Bi Chei

Apache Crown Dancer

Raven Spirit

Dragonfly Spirit

Wolf Spirit

 

His work is highly sought after by major collectors, museum board members, major curators and Native American jewelry enthusiasts who just love to wear his pieces.

Monty Claw tells us stories with his jewelry as he continues on his creative path.

Paula – I’m closing with a photo of the first of my many Monty Claw pieces – a treasured buffalo inlay buckle………..

Paula’s inlay buffalo belt buckle by Monty Claw

The Role of Churro Sheep and Angora Goats in Navajo Life

Sheep by Navajo Harold Davidson

Sheep and goats have been an important part of Navajo life since the 1500s.  Read about the importance they have played in Navajo life by clicking on the titles below:

A Short History on Navajo-Churro Sheep

The Oldest Domesticated Livestock in the United States: Navajo-Churro

Angora Goal by Navajo Harold Davidson

Churro Sheep

Navajo Churro Sheep

Native Americans were first introduced to Churra sheep brought to North America by colonizing Spaniards in the 1500s. The Navajo and Zuni proved to be very good herders and weavers and Churro sheep became a main source of their negotiable wealth.  Churros come in a variety of colors, including reds, browns, black, white, and mixes, and color may change with age.

Sheep by Navajo Harold Davidson

The color is made up of fleece color and the separate color of the head and legs. The fleece comes in a wide variety of natural colors and may have spots and patches of contrasting color. In many cases this eliminates the need for dying although some natural dyes are used to produce deeper colors. The Navajo people have used Churro fleece in rugs and other weavings for many years.

Churro ewe and lamb

Navajo Angora Goats

Records related to Angora Goats state that the mohair has been used as far back as the time of Moses. Goats are said to be the second animal to be domesticated (dogs were first).  The Navajo Angora, also known as the ‘Spanish’, ‘Traditional’, or ‘Heritage’ Angora, are not of Spanish origin but are descendants of animals first imported from Turkey to the United States in 1849 by Dr. James P. Davis of South Carolina.

Angora Goat

Navajo, already raising Churro sheep and other goats, added Angora goats to their flocks in the early 1900s. Both Churro Sheep and Angora Goats tolerate the southwest’s arid climate and harsh browsing conditions.

Angora Goat

 


The Navajo Angora has ample fiber coverage over its entire body, but lacks fiber coverage on its face past the forehead, ears, and legs below the hock/knee (a small amount of downy fiber on the sides of the legs is sometimes seen).  This is an advantage as it prevents build up of burrs and other plant materials in the areas most likely to contact plants. Animals can be of any color or pattern. The average Navajo Angora produces 3-4 pounds of mohair per shearing and are shorn twice a year. 

Angora Goat by Navajo Harold Davidson

Sheep images in Native American art represent charity, patience, gentleness and riches. Sheep, goats and weaving are familiar scenes on storyteller items.

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Paula

The Three Stone Navajo Bracelet

One very traditional Navajo bracelet layout is the three stone bracelet.

#8 Turquoise 3 Stone Shadowbox bracelet by Navajo Wilbur Muskett

This layout is usually used when there are wonderful stones to showcase.

Vintage 3 Stone Bracelet with chisel mark E

The Three Stone layout works best if the stones match.

Vintage unsigned Royston Turquoise 3 Stone bracelet

Often the central stone is larger and the two sides stones are smaller.

Vintage unsigned 3 Stone bracelet

Sometimes the central stone is smaller and the two side stones are larger.

Vintage unsigned 3 stone bracelet

 

It is equally suitable to use the layout on a wire bracelet or a cuff.

Read about wire bracelets here – Wire Bracelets

Vintage unsigned 3 stone Bisbee turquoise bracelet on heavy 3 wire frame

 

Three stone White Buffalo Stone cuff bracelet by Joe Piaso

Read about White Buffalo Stone.

 

Vintage 3 stone bracelet with partial hallmark of P. This is a cross between a wire and a cuff bracelet. There is a heavy 4 wire framework and a solid sterling faceplate under the stones.Paula

What is a sweater bracelet?

Early on in my collecting of Native American bracelets, I was handed a contemporary Zuni needlepoint bracelet by the maker and was told “this is a sweater bracelet”.

Zuni needlepoint sweater bracelet by Jenny Eustace

I had never heard that term before and am a firm believer in “if you don’t know, ask”, so I asked and was told it is a style of bracelet where a design element has a “drop” – that is, it drops down so it lays on the back of the wearer’s hand and can peek out of the lower edge of a long-sleeved sweater cuff. Well that made perfect sense so I have used the term ever since.

A more subtle sweater bracelet by Jenny Eustace

Here is another example of a sweater bracelet by a Navajo artist.

Petit Point sweater bracelet by Navajo Betty Etisitty

Some sweater bracelets can be quite dramatic in how much silver and stone is “dropped” onto the back of the hand.

Unmarked NOS (New Old Stock) sweater bracelet

Unmarked vintage sterling silver and turquoise sweater bracelet

Here is a versatile sweater bracelet – you can decide which color you want to peek out.

Unmarked vintage petit point sweater bracelet in turquoise and coral

Some bracelets made a gentle downward sweep at the cuff.

Tommy Jackson, Navajo

Silver sweater bracelets often come to a point as they drop.

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Paula