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:
From North American Indian Jewelry and Adornment by 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
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.
Below is a slide show of a Sterling silver box with inlay knifewing by Suzie James Navajo