Book Look: Zuni Fetishes and Carvings by Kent McManis

We have many fetish reference books in the store but the one I reach for first is “Zuni Fetishes and Carvings” by Kent McManis.

There is a first edition (left) and second edition (right)

The first 37 pages are devoted to “The Power of the Fetish” and discuss the symbolism and usage of the various fetishes. The section is organized by animals and human forms: owls, badgers, maidens to mention just a few.

Claudia Peina – Zuni
Warrior Maiden Carving

The next 34 pages discuss the various materials the Zuni artists use in carving and decorating their fetishes.

Emery Boone – Zuni
Horse Fetish Carving of Pipestone with inlay

The next few pages discuss the art of carving.

Antler carving of eagle taking rabbit

The next 55 pages are devoted to the Zuni carving families telling a brief history of the family. Each family section includes a detailed family tree. There are also examples of pieces made by various members of each family.

An ammonite bear by the Laiwakete family.

The book closes with a brief guide to collecting, indexes and so on.  See the slide show below of various buffalo fetish carvings.

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This is a valuable book for the Zuni fetish collector.


Sadly we lost our mentor and friend Kent McManis earlier this year. His passion lives on and he is held in high regard.

Charles Loloma Badger Paw Pendant

When this piece arrived in an estate lot several years ago, I fell in love with it immediately – purely for its design and symbolism. I didn’t even look at the back – just thought it was an extraordinary piece.

Then I turned it over…..and………thought………..could it be?

I started googling and soon had a strong feeling this could be a piece by Hopi legend Charles Loloma.

So I wrote to the niece of Charles Loloma, Verma Nequatewa.

Sonwai is the artistic name used by Verma Nequatewa. Verma began working with her uncle, the late Charles Loloma, in the mid-1960’s and continued working with him until his studio closed in the early 1990’s. At that time, she opened her own studio and has been continuing his teachings through her own jewelry.

Here is the reply I received from Bob Rhodes in response to my photos and email to Verma : “The pendant has a tufa-cast back and inlay of turquoise, lapis lazuli, coral and ironwood. It is difficult to see the detail in the photo, so I may have missed something.
The piece represents what Charles called a “Badger Hand.” Charles was Badger clan and this is his concept of a combination of badger paw and human hand. It was most likely made at the Loloma Studio at Hotevilla, AZ in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s. At that time he often did not differentiate between turquoise from different mines. He had a wash basin that he put all sorts of turquoise in, then picked pieces out for different colors and shapes. He did only use natural, not treated, turquoise, so some of the stones will “mature” or change color as they are exposed to light, air and skin oils. What you have is a very representational piece of Loloma jewelry of that time period. ”

Well I got goose bumps and thanked them both so much for the thoughtful and detailed reply.

They appreciated the photos as they are collecting as many as they can of Charles Loloma’s pieces.

Charles Loloma (1921-1991) was an active Hopi artist from 1949-1991. He is one of the most innovative and influential Native American artists of his time. He used many techniques including tufa casting, lost wax casting, stone and wood inlay, and cobblestone.

Although he was also a painter and ceramicist, he is most well known for his jewelry.

This badger paw pendant is an example of the high stone-to-stone inlay he became so well-known for.

According to Loloma himself, “I am not versed in the exact date that I started working in jewelry, but my guess is it was in 1947 when I was a student at Alfred University. I was working in pottery and silver.”

In the mid 1950s Loloma moved to Scottsdale, Arizona and began making jewelry in earnest.

The name Loloma translates to “many beautiful colors” which is certainly evident in his work. He broke from the tradition of solely using turquoise and coral by adding unusual stones of bright color as well as fossilized ivory and imported woods such as iron wood.

Much has been written about Charles Loloma – see Southwestern Indian Jewelry, Crafting New Traditions by Dexter Cirillo.



Dear Paula –
I just bought a pendant marked on the oval back as:
Quick online research implies this is Mr. Sacatero’s work.
The back is a concave oval measuring 2″ by 1 1/2″.
The front has five small claws, arranging as a right-hand paw (??) at the bottom of the piece.
The 5 ‘knuckles’ are small, perfectly-matched red coral (??).
The piece is about 3/4″ thick where the 5 red stones are, but not solid.
At the top, centered, is a single turquoise stone, mostly blue with distinctive black flecks. This stone is about 1/4 ” across.
The turquoise stone is surrounded by 3 overlapping silver sworls.
The 5 knuckles have tiny silver beads in uneven line on the top and bottom of the row of coral.
I am curious if Mr. Secatero is prominent and respected, and if you can offer any interpretations…. a standard piece for a man to wear as a pendant? High dollar value? Historical importance?
Should I polish?
Thank you for your time. I’ll be grateful for any comment.
I like the piece very much.
Cannot find anything online that is at all similar. Wonder if the piece has special significance , in the paw shape with turquoise , coral knuckles plus 5 claws.
Am very happy with my find here in the east!!!-:))Again my thanks -Pete

ESHi Pete,
The hallmark
is that of Navajo silversmith Elaine Sam, noted for her bear claw necklaces, bracelets, watches and pendants.
Currently we only have one item by Elaine Sam in our store. If you click on the photo, it will take you to the page.
NBT306-bearclaw-xxlg-sam-2We have had a number of her bear claw squash blossom style necklaces over the years. We purchased one this year and it sold a week after we listed it. Yes, Elaine Sam is still producing jewelry. Here is what her bear claw necklaces look like:
NBC62-1Your pendant is beautiful ! Judging by its size, it is made with badger claws to represent either a badger or bear paw.
As far as symbolism, the usual interpretation and the artist’s intent might be different but to get an idea of powers attributed to animals, you can visit here
As far as polishing, that’s a matter of personal preference. It looks nice as is.
This pendant would be suitable for a man or a woman to wear.
We don’t do appraisals from photos, but the value in a piece is in its significance to a person and it sounds like you hold this pendant in high esteem, so that means it has great worth !