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.



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


Jacob Poleviyouma, Jr. – Hopi Bear Paw Watch Tips


Jacob Poleviyouma, Jr.

Jacob Poleviyouma, Jr. was of the Hopi Sun Clan in the Shungopavi-Hotevilla Pueblo. He learned his craft at the Hopi Silvercraft Cooperative Guild in Second Mesa, Arizona and produced jewelry from 1976 until his death in 1986.

Hallmark of Hopi Jacob Poleviyouma, Jr.

Hallmark of Hopi Jacob Poleviyouma, Jr.

Hopi Silvercraft Guild

The Hopi Silvercraft Guild was formed in 1949 by the Indian Arts and Crafts Board and the Hopi Government Agency. For twenty years, the Guild provided classes, a central workshop and a stable marketing outlet for Hopi made items.



Who made this necklace from the 60s and what is it worth?

Hi Paula,

I got this necklace in the 60s been in a storage box for 40 years, any idea what it is or who made it or what it would be worth if I sold it. Thanks Paul


This is a unique necklace as I have not seen anything quite like it. A combination of heishi, claws and a turquoise pendant. When you say you “got” it in the 60’s, how did you get it? From whom and where? That often helps.

The heishi looks handmade and like either acoma jet or dark shell (maybe olive shell) with some turquoise mixed in. Its hard to tell from the photos but it looks like there are some (deeply tarnished) silver heishi beads mixed in there too. Are there?  The beads and cones on the ends look appropriate for a Navajo made piece – could be sterling silver with 40 years of tarnish.

The claws are meant to represent Bear Claws. Whether they are real or faux claws, I can not tell from a photo. The hot pin prick is really the only way to tell – the smell is quite distinct between a real claw (if you’ve ever smelled burning tooth or bone or even branding of cattle or horses – its something like that) and a faux claw (a more acrid, sharp smoke – think burning plastic).

The treatment of the claws is very unique – the two side claws with their silver caps and added into the heishi. Very interesting treatment. But the crowning achievement is the way the three claws are affixed to the bottom edge of the pendant – see best when viewing the back of the pendant. – that took some thought and skill.

The setting around the turquoise stone is unusual (i.e. not traditional NA), looks free form handmade. The stone is very blue for being 40+ years old but life in a box might explain that.

Does this test positive for sterling silver? In some of the photos it looks like it is, and other not so much.

As far as the hallmark, although there are many hallmarks using similar arrows, most have either another symbol or initials along with the arrow.  In one hallmark book, there is a drawing of this arrow in the “Unidentified” section. So perhaps someone who reads this blog might have an idea, but I do not.

As to what it is, I’d call it a Bear Claw Necklace, whether or not they are real, that is the style.

Is it Native American made? It is definitely made in a Native American style but with a very unusual combination of elements. The hallmark leads one to think it was Native American made, but until the hallmark is identified, one can’t be sure if it was Native American made and if so, by whom.

As far as its worth, I wouldn’t hazard a guess from photos.  If I had it in hand I could give you an idea.



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 !

Pendant loop too small for leather choker – what do I do?

Hi Paula,

Perhaps you can help out a fetish newbie. A few weeks back I bought from your website a black bear pendant and a leather necklace to put it on.




I’ve found the loop on the bear is too small to fit over the clasp on the necklace. I don’t want to return either one, but any suggestions? Should I take it to a jeweler? Try to flatten the loop to make it a little bigger? I sure don’t want to damage it. Or perhaps buy a different chain? How would I know that one would fit? I plan to eventually make a necklace of several fetishes that have special meaning for me, and I guess I need some help before I start.

I would appreciate any directions or suggestions you could give me.

Thanking you in advance,

Hi Linda,

First of all, any time your purchase something from us, feel free to ask ahead of time if a certain bead necklace, for example, will go through the bail of a pendant you are looking at. We can always check that out for you. For most pendants and necklaces we list the size of the bail on the pendant and the diameter (or thickness) of the necklace so you can get a pretty good idea.

The pendant you purchased was shown with a sterling silver round omega which would work very well with it as would most chains.

omega round thin

Also we have some very small, 5mm, antiqued beads that could work.


And yes, you could take your bear pendant to a jeweler who could gently heat and open up or otherwise reshape the heavy wire loop.


Recommendation for Protection against Evil and Bad Luck


My friend is interested in a native indian amulet or “charm” for protection against evil and bad luck.  Would these medicine bags be appropriate?  I specificially like the Crazy Horse bag with the gemstones, however, I am not sure about their spiritual powers or purpose.  Would you please be able to direct me to the proper item that I could buy for my friend.

Thank you. IJ

Hi IJ,

Every person has their own belief system when it comes to good spirits and good luck so it is not so important what is used, but what one believes. Picking up a special stone can do more to change one’s luck than purchasing a lottery ticket !!

With that said, you know your friend and his or her habits and propensity to ceremony and ritual. Here are some ideas.

The Crazy Horse bag is very nice.

Crazy Horse Bag by Apache artist Cynthia Whitehawk

I’d highly recommend any of the bags made by Apache artist, Cynthia Whitehawk as she makes each of her items in ceremony and with great attention to detail. They are filled with a wonderful spirit already !  She acknowledges that each of us tends to be drawn to certain animals, stones or other healing spirits, so she makes many bags and shares her thoughts on the protective and healing powers of each totem.  That is indicated at the bottom of each page describing the bag.

Eagle Spirit Bag by Apache artist Cynthia Whitehawk

Carved Zuni fetishes can also be very powerful talismans – many are suitable to carry in a pocket or purse making them handy to hold or rub.

Rainbow Calsilica Medicine Bear by Zuni artist Kenny Chavez

Some of these fetishes are available as pendants so they can be worn on a chain or leather choker.

Sacred White Buffalo Pendant by Zuni artist Cheryl Beyuka

A cross might be the perfect answer.

Sterling Silver and Turquoise Cross by Navajo artist Derrick Gordon

For those who are looking for good luck, such as would come from a finding a four leaf clover, there are Authentic Lucky Horseshoes.

Authentic Lucky Horseshoe

I hope I’ve given you some ideas to find the perfect item for your friend.

Wide Sterling Silver Navajo or Hopi Overlay Cuff with T Hallmark

Hi Paula

I’m curious about the mark in a 2″ widest, cuff bracelet that appears to be overlay work.  Inside, the mark looks like a capital “T” with the word sterling printed under the mark.  The top center design is sunface and there are two bear claw designs, one on each side.  It measures 6 1/2″ around, from edge to edge.

I was not able to photograph the mark on the inside as it is not in the middle but near one end of the bracelet — it is a capital “T” with the word “sterling” underneath.  I believe it was bought in either Santa Fe or Taos about 25 years ago. Thanks for any info you can give me.

Thank you,  Penny

Hi Penny,

Your nice heavy overlay bracelet has a sunface and what the artists we talk to usually call badger paws although they say that the buying public would rather think of them as bear paws, so that’s OK with them too ! We’ve heard the stylized depiction such as on your bracelet referred to both ways.

According to Hallmarks of the Southwest by Barton Wright, the hallmark T has been attributed to Navajo artist Tommy Singer. Early on he used the T, TS and and variations of a T often accompanied by a quarter moon or bird form.

His more recent hallmarks are

T. Singer


Hallmark T. Singer

Since you said this was originally purchased 25 years ago, it is possible it is some of Tommy Singer’s earlier work, however without seeing the piece in person or seeing the hallmark it is hard to say positively.

Tommy Singer is more noted for chip inlay and storyteller pieces such as the examples that I have used here. I personally have not seen simple overlay like this by him, although I have seen such bracelets by a number of both Navajo and Hopi artists.

It is possible that this could be a Hopi bracelet or a Hopi style bracelet made by a Navajo artist that used the T hallmark. If you can send me a photo of the hallmark, maybe I can see something distinctive about the hallmark. Also a closeup of one of the paws, would allow me to see the black oxidation background better to see if it is textured or a flat wash. When I zoom in on the photos you sent, the dark background appears to be a flat wash, more typical of Navajo made Hopi style overlay.

Below, for example is a Hopi style overlay bracelet made by a Navajo artist. It had simple, clean lines, no decorative stamping or embellishments. The black background was a wash, not texturized. It was sent to us as a Hopi bracelet and from the photos sent to us, it could have been, but as soon as it arrived it was clearly Navajo made and by an artist we were familiar with. So making positive determinations strictly from photos is difficult. If you click on this bracelet photo you can see more specs about it in terms of size and weight. We received and sold this bracelet a few years ago in our pawn shop.

So the jury is still out, but here is some more info on Tommy Singer and Overlay.

Who is Tommy Singer?

Known world wide for his silver work, chip inlay and necklaces, Tommy Singer pieces are highly collectible and sought after. The Tommy Singer family has been involved in silversmithing, stone and beadwork for a very long time, handing the art down from one generation to another. Tommy Singer grew up on in the community of Dilcon on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona and has been attributed as the first Native American artist to use chip inlay. This is where a silver piece is decorated with turquoise or coral chips.

What is Overlay?

Overlay pieces are made of two layers. The bottom layer is a solid sterling silver piece. The top layer has a cutout design. The cutout is placed over the bottom layer and the two pieces are “sweated” together, that is heated so that they become one. The bottom layer (background to the cutout) is usually accented. The Navajo silversmiths oxidize the bottom layer which darkens it. Hopi silversmiths typically oxidize and etch the background (texturize it) with hashmarks.

Navajo artist Russell Sam – Bear Pendant – Info Please?

Dear Paula,

I have come into the possession of a piece by Russell Sam and have tried in vain to find out anything about the artist.  I wondered if you might have some info on him or might be able to point me to someone who might have some biography info on him.  I would appreciate any help you could give me. I have attached a scanned picture of the Russell Sam pendant. If you know anything at all about the artist, I would appreciate whatever info you may have on him.  Thank you so much for your time and trouble.

 Sincerely,  Dolores

Hi Delores,

Russell Sam is a Navajo silversmith from the Gallup, New Mexico area who is still producing as we are currently purchasing his items.  In fact, we have a very similar pendant to yours in our store right now.

Many members of the Sam family are silversmiths in New Mexico and a number of them had worked for the Atkinson Trading Company in past years.



Jet Zuni Fetish Bear Pendants by Everett Pino

Someone asked me to get them some of these Zuni Fetish Bears by Everett Pino made from jet. Well. he made them but now I can’t find the email asking for them, so I hope that via this blog, Facebook or Twitter, you will see that I got them !! Just click the photo below and it will take you to the page with the jet bear choices.