Kokopelli

Kokopelli is based on the Hopi word KOKOPILAU  KOKO = WOOD   PILAU = HUMP
The kokopelli, flute player, often associated with the Hopi Flute Clan is the symbol of happiness, joy and universal fertility: humans, crops, domestic and wild animals. He is often a part of rituals related to marriage, conception and birth and has been a part of the Ancient Pueblo Peoples since Hohokam times (AD 750  – 850). The Kokopelli is a presence in Hopi legends and can appear in in ceremonies as a kachina (katsina). See the slide show below for examples.

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Kachinas, supernatural spirit beings, are called “katsina” by the Hopi and “Koko” by the Zuni (which means “raw people”). Kachinas are associated with rain and other good things such as longevity, strength and good fortune. Kachinas serve as an intermediary between the people and the gods to bring blessings to the entire universe.

Today depicted as a non-gender figure, kokopelli was traditionally a male figure, often well endowed until the missionaries discouraged such depiction ! Tales include the kokopelli visiting and by morning, all of the young women were pregnant.

Here is an excerpt from North American Indian Jewelry and Adornment by Lois Dubin

The kokopelli might be simple or have various adornments. It most always is holding and playing a flute, which announces his arrival and is suggested to represent rain, precious to the southwest. His legs are dancing in time to his own music. Sometimes kokopelli is depicted with feathers or a headdress protruding on the top of his head. In a few instances (mostly rock art) he has been depicted with a stick or bow.  He is most always shown in profile.

Milton Howard, Hopi

Kokopelli talks to the wind and the sky. His flute can be heard in the spring breeze, bringing warmth after the winter cold. He is the symbolic seed bringer and water sprinkler. His religious or supernatural power for fertility is meant to invoke rain as well as impregnate women both physically and mentally. He is also associated with fertility of wild animals.

From a Field Guide to Rock Art Symbols of the Greater Southwest by Alex Patterson

The humpbacked kokopelli image is found from Casa Grande, Mexico to the Hopi and Rio Grande Pueblos and then westward to the Californian deserts in prehistoric rock, effigy figures, pottery, and on kiva walls.  Some say the reason he has a hump or is bent over is that he was carrying a heavy sack, perhaps full of seeds or some say with an unborn child he is going to deliver.

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Anasazi, Hohokam and Mibres peoples used the symbol on their pottery. Today many southwest Native Americans use the symbol on their pottery.

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Many Native American tribes use the kokopelli symbol. Here are some samples of its usage by Hopi, Zuni, Navajo and Oglala Lakota artists. Click the photos for more information.

Hopi Overlay Kokopelli Belt Buckle by Steven Sockyma

Hopi Overlay Kokopelli Belt Buckle by Steven Sockyma

Oglala Lakota Catlinite (pipestone) pendants

Navajo Overlay Kokopelli Ring by Calvin Peterson

Navajo Overlay Kokopelli Ring by Calvin Peterson

 

Navajo Sterling Silver Kokopelli Pin Pendant by Robert Vandever

Navajo Sterling Silver Kokopelli Pin Pendant by Robert Vandever

You may have heard of Ledger Art, where Plains Indians used the materials at hand, such as old ledger paper from forts and missions, on which to paint and draw. Well, this is Cigar Box Art, a creative repurposing of vintage cigar boxes by Lakota artist Alan Monroe.This box has a large capacity so will hold quite a few treasures or a good amount of sage and other smudging supplies.

Navajo Kokopelli Inlay Pendant

Navajo Kokopelli Inlay Pendant

Zuni Horse Fetish with Kokopelli petroglyphs by Tyrone Poncho

Zuni Horse Fetish with Kokopelli petroglyphs by Tyrone Poncho

 

Hopi Kokopelli Overlay Belt Buckle by Joe Josytewa

Hopi Kokopelli Overlay Belt Buckle by Joe Josytewa

This article is meant to round up the various interpretations of kokopelli, not serve as a definitive tome on the subject.

Paula

Zuni Artist Don Dewa

Zuni artist Don Dewa has been actively making his spectacular inlay jewelry since the 1970s.

He has used several hallmarks:
DON C DEWA
DON DEWA ZUNI NM
DON DEWA CUSTOM MADE JEWELRY ZUNI NM STERLING with a sunface (see example below)

 

When he he collaborates with his wife, Velma E. Dewa, they sign D & V DEWA

He is noted for his beautiful inlay and most notably his spinner bracelets. A spinner, in this case, is a rotating sunface that has different inlay on each side.  See the photos.

Don Dewa spinner pendant

Don Dewa spinner bracelet

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Click to see a spinner bracelet by Don Dewa

 

From American Indian Jewelry by Gregory Schaaf

Paula

Zuni Artists Martin and Esther Panteah

Martin and Esther Panteah have worked together on their jewelry since 1973. Martin does the stone work and both Martin and Esther work on the silver. They specialize in both stone-on-stone inlay and channel inlay.

Their hallmark is M T PANTEAH and ZUNI

Here is an example of their work. This exquisite Antelope Kachina bracelet was likely made in the 1970s. It is 1 3/4″ wide all around and weighs 117 grams. Made from Mother of Pearl, Turquoise, Coral, Acoma Jet and sterling silver. The rounded edges are a signature finishing technique of Martin’s and a very difficult one to do so well.

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From Zuni the Art and the People

From Who’s Who in Zuni Jewelry

Paula

What is a Ketoh, Bowguard (Bow Guard) or Wrist Guard?

 

When shooting a bow, depending on the bow but more importantly, the anatomy, musculature and skill of the archer, it is possible for the bow string to contact the inside of the arm that is holding the bow.

Examples of various archers to illustrate the above point.

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When the bow string contacts the inside of the arm, it results in “string slap”. Here are some examples of the after effects of “string slap”. The location of the injury will vary depending on the person and the bow.

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To protect the inner arm from string slap, arms guards can be used. They can be full length or partial. Partial arm guards are usually centered on the inner forearm (bow guard) or at the wrist (wrist guard).

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Native Americans were skilled with their bows but with the frequent use for hunting and protection, in all types of weather, in variety of positions and when fatigued, it is easy to see why bow guards and wrist guards were used. At first they were just wide strips of the heaviest hide leather. Later other stiff materials such as metal were added.

Navajo began making bowguards are early as 1895; some say earlier.  The Navajo bowguard is called a ketoh. It consists of a metal plate affixed to a leather wrist or arm piece.

The metal plate is either wrought or cast.

A wrought piece is one that has been made from metal either cold (no heat) or using a fire (forge) and hand tools. The term wought is most often used to describe the shaping, altering and molding of various metals using a hammer. In the case of Navajo silver work, this often includes stamping and repousse work. (Repousse is a method of forming a pattern on metal by stamping, hammering or pressing a design from the back to produce a three-dimensional bas-relief surface on the front.)

Indian Silverwork of the Southwest, Illustrated Volume One Harry P. Mera

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See the slide show below for examples of modern wrought pieces.

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A cast piece is one that has been made using a mold and molten metal. Early cast pieces were sand cast. Today they are usually tufa cast. Read more about casting in my previous post Native American Cast Jewelry.

Indian Silverwork of the Southwest, Illustrated Volume One Harry P. Mera

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See the slide show below for examples of modern cast pieces.

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Following are some more historical examples of bow guards from this book.

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Today decorated ketohs and Plains beaded wrist guards are mainly worn for ceremonial and social occasions, including dancing at pow wows. See the slide show below for examples of modern beaded Lakota wrist guards.

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There has been a recent surge in popularity of bow guards as a jewelry item including smaller ketohs for women. See the photo group below for examples of womens’ ketohs.

Following is a slide show that that show the various ways ketohs can be worn. The sky is the limit as to where you position your ketoh and how you tie it on.

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Paula

Book Look: Indian Silverwork of the Southwest, Illustrated Volume One Harry P. Mera

This book, written by the late Dr. Harry P. Mera (1875-1951) illustrates the features of silverwork in the southwest from its inception to the late 1930s.

Except for a very few pages, most of the 122 pages have two black and white photos, some of which are group photos so many items are pictured. Here is the table of contents:

Some examples of the pages follow. Click on the photos to find similar pieces in our store.

Paula

What is a Slave Bracelet and is it Native American?

The term slave bracelet refers to a style of jewelry that has a chain or other attachment from the bracelet to one or more finger rings. Commonly there is a central piece (island or hand connector) between the ring and bracelet that rests on the back of the hand. 

 

This fashion originated in Africa and is associated with India – harems, belly dancers and the like. The design was likely adopted by Native Americans for tourists after the bracelets became popular in the 1920s American flapper culture.

In spite of the negative connotation of the word slave and its various meanings, the style continues to be popular and has no other name that I am aware of.

Paula

 

Old Bee Stamp on Vintage Navajo Jewelry

This bracelet, likely from 1920s- 1940s (per some learned colleagues) has a distinctive bee stamp on it.

This stamp has been linked to some very old jewelry but so far I have not been able to pin down who might have made this stamp or who used it.

If you have any information on the bee stamp, I’d love to know.

Thanks, Paula