Awanyu, Plumed Serpent

Awanyu (also Avanyu), is a plumed or horned serpent said to be the guardian of water by the southwest Puebloans.

Awanyu by Cody Cheama

Awanyu by Cody Cheama

Awanyu by Cody Cheama

The curves and zig zags represent flowing water and lightning.

Alice Platero

Awanyu appears on the walls of caves located high above canyon rivers in New Mexico and Arizona.

Tsirege (also Tshirege) is an Anasazi Pueblo archaeological site located west of White Rock, New Mexico. Tsirege. occupied from c. 1325 to c. 1600, has 800 rooms. Tsirege means “bird place” in the Tewa language. The site includes a long defensive wall, 10 kivas, a reservoir, and many significant petroglyph panels including this one of awanyu.

Thank you to Art Tafoya for introducing me to this deity !


Dragonfly and the Isleta Cross

About the Isleta Cross

Also called the Pueblo Cross, the Isleta Cross is a very old Pueblo design associated with the Isleta Pueblo. The double-bar cross design is said to have originated with the Moors and Spaniards.

To the Pueblo Indians the double-bar cross was very similar to the dragonfly symbol of their culture, so many Puebloans incorporated the Isleta cross in their jewelry. By the early twentieth century, Pueblo artisans made elegant necklaces with a large central cross as a pendant and smaller crosses along the sides interspersed with beads.

Many crosses of Spanish and Mexican origin as well as Isleta crosses have a heart or a partial heart at the bottom. This is sometime referred to as the “bleeding heart”. In the Catholic Church, the Sacred Heart (the pierced and bleeding heart) alludes to the manner of Jesus’ death and represents Christ’s goodness and charity through his wounds and ultimate sacrifice. However it has been said that the reason the Puebloans put a heart on the bottom of their crosses was for other reasons. They felt it represented the big generous heart of the dragonfly who loved the people. Also, the Pueblo women were said to like the crosses with the hearts on the bottom better, so it could have simply been a case of fashion preference.

The Isleta Pueblo is located in central New Mexico, on the east bank of the Rio Grande south of Albuquerque. It is on the same site as when it was discovered in 1540. It was the seat of the Franciscan mission of San Antonio de Isleta from approximately 1621 until the Pueblo revolt of 1680. The Spaniards captured the pueblo in 1681. In the late 1700’s, when Isleta was repopulated with native peoples, it became the mission of San Agustín de Isleta. Tiwa, a Tanoan language, is the tongue of the Isleta Pueblo.

Read more about Pueblo here What does Pueblo mean?

About the Dragonfly

The dragonfly is associated with many Native American tribes but most notably those of the southwest beginning with early HOHOKAM and MIMBRES depictions on pottery. Early Puebloans and many contemporary southwest artists have continued the tradition.

from Heart of the Dragonfly by Allison Bird

Mimbres reproduction Dragonfly AD 1250 Site Mimbres Valley New Mexico


Dragonfly represents rain and its life-giving force, a source of renewal for the land, plants, animals and thus allows human life.

from Landscape of the Spirits: Hohokam Rock Art at South Mountain Park By Todd W. Bostwick, Peter Krocek

1000 year old dragonfly-petroglyph photo by bryan-pfeiffer – click photo to learn more……………


From Rock Art Symbols by Alex Patterson

The dragonfly inspires spiritually and creatively and helps us on the path of discovery and enlightenment.

It spiritually embodies the stripping away all negativity that holds us back, helping us to achieve our dreams and goals.

Dragonfly is the keeper of dreams, the energy within that sees all of our true potential and ability. Dragonfly reminds us that anything is possible.

If you have ever seen a dragonfly’s wings glisten in the sunlight you can see why they have inspired jewelers. And how their intricately colored bodies would lead to works of stone inlay.

It is no wonder that contemporary Zuni, Hopi, Navajo and other southwest silversmiths create many beautiful dragonfly pieces.



Zia Pueblo – Zia Sun Symbol – New Mexico State Flag Borrows Symbol

The Zia Pueblo north of Albuquerque, New Mexico is part of the larger Pueblo community of southwest Native Americans. The Zia Pueblo has been occupied continuously since 1250 AD. The Zias are noted for their pottery and their use of the sacred sun symbol.

Traditionally a circle with rays pointing in the four directions, the Zia symbol is painted on pottery and drawn in the ground for various ceremonial purposes.


Four is sacred to the Zia and represents a variety of natural forces:

The four directions

The four seasons

The four phases of the day – sunrise, noon, evening and midnight

The four phases of life – childhood, youth, adulthood and old age

The four sacred obligations – to develop a strong body, a clear mind, a pure spirit and a devotion to the well being of ones people.

The Zia Pueblo has its own flag


The Zia symbol is also used on the New Mexico state flag, highway markers, and as design elements in state buildings. You might have seen the symbol as a design on a tee shirt or a coffee cup or a pendant and thought “Oh, yeah, the state symbol of New Mexico”. Well, I’m not sure New Mexico ever got permission to use the ancient Zia Pueblo symbol, but that’s another story. I do want you to know that the symbol originated long before there was a state of New Mexico and its flag.

newmexicoflagpicture1You’ll also see the Zia symbol used by southwest Native American artists in all types of jewelry, with and without a sunface at the center. Here is a key ring with an inlaid Zia sunface symbol.


Jacla, Jackla, Jocla………No matter how you spell it, what is it?

A traditional Pueblo jewelry adornment, a jacla is two loops of heishi that were originally earrings and sometimes fastened to the bottom of a stone necklace as a pendant-like attachment.

Jacla is Navajo for “ear string”. The Navajo spelling is the most commonly used version of the word. Jocla is also common but jackla is a phonetic mis-spelling. Although jaclas are attributed to the Rio Grande Pueblo Indians, they were traded with other tribes so have become associated with the Navajo as well. They are seen in vintage photos being worn by members of all southwest tribes, both men and women.

In the oldest style necklaces, the jacla is a pair of loop earrings tied onto the necklace.

N200-jacla-turq-nugget-2The two loops would be removed from the necklace and used as earrings.   This is how the jacla originated. This necklace is likely from 1910-1920.


I can picture a pre-European-contact Rio Grande Puebloan taking his or her jewelry off and storing it that way. And sometimes when not wanting to wear earrings, just leaving the jacla on the necklace as a pendant.

The jacla might match the necklace it is attached to or be of contrasting heishi. Most jaclas have tabular pieces in the bottom center that are called “corn”. They are most often made from white or orange (spiny oyster) shell or coral. According to Mark Bahti, author of Collecting Southwestern Native American jewelery, jaclas with spiny oyster shell corn are rarely seen and highly prized by many Indians.


The tips of the jacla loops are traditionally finished off with coral, a contrasting shell or trade beads, often red.


In the early 20th century, jaclas started to be incorporated into part of the necklace, so this necklace would have likely been made after 1920, likely in the 50s.


Contemporary artists use the jacla design in many ways such as this block turquoise jacla necklace with spiny oyster corn.


And here’s one in very fine heishi from Santo Domingo artist Paul Tenorio

NH893-5-strand-jacla-ortiz-2 NH893-5-strand-jacla-ortiz-3

Loop earrings are basically a miniature version of a jacla – they are made with and without corn.


Food and Clothes of Ancient Pueblos

Hello Paula,

Could you please explain what the Pueblo people eat and how it was cooked and served.Also clothes the women and the men wore. I have always been intrigued with the Native Americans.

Hi Rita,

Thank you for your question. I suggest the library or bookstore to find the answer to your questions about the lifestyle of the ancient Pueblo Indians.

To get you started, here is a brief discussion of the use of the word pueblo.

What does pueblo mean?

Santo Domingo Pueblo Heishi


Native American Terms – What does Pueblo Mean?

Hi Paula,

I’m confused about the meaning of the word pueblo and wonder if you can clear it up for me. Thank you,


Hi Paul,

I can see why. The meaning of the word in the Native American sense has several layers, all somewhat distinct yet related.

The general definition for pueblo is community.

In Spanish pueblo means a village or town.

In Native American usage, pueblo has more specific meanings:

* There is the Pueblo culture, the people themselves, the Pueblos.

* There are the various Pueblos, or communities.

* There are buildings called pueblos.


The Pueblos are Native Americans from the Southwest US. Historically they have been farmers and traders. In the 16th century, Spanish explorers encountered the Pueblos living in small villages.


Today there are 21 individual Pueblos (see list below). Some of the most familiar are Zuni, Taos, Hopi, Santo Domingo, Acoma and Isleta. They are located in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Previously there were pueblos in Colorado such as the Anasazi cliff pueblos at Mesa Verde. The inhabitants of the Southwest Pueblos are thought to be descendants of the Anasazi cliff dwellers.

Today’s 21 Federally Recognized Pueblos

* Hopi Tribe of Arizona

* Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, New Mexico

* Pueblo of Acoma, New Mexico

* Pueblo of Cochiti, New Mexico

* Pueblo of Jemez, New Mexico

* Pueblo of Isleta, New Mexico

* Pueblo of Laguna, New Mexico

* Pueblo of Nambe, New Mexico

* Pueblo of Picuris, New Mexico

* Pueblo of Pojoaque, New Mexico

* Pueblo of San Felipe, New Mexico

* Pueblo of San Ildefonso, New Mexico

* Pueblo of Sandia, New Mexico

* Pueblo of Santa Ana, New Mexico

* Pueblo of Santa Clara, New Mexico

* Pueblo of Santo Domingo, New Mexico

* Pueblo of Taos, New Mexico

* Pueblo of Tesuque, New Mexico

* Pueblo of Zia, New Mexico

* Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo of Texas

* Zuni Tribe of the Zuni Reservation, New Mexico

Examples of some Native American pieces from some of the pueblos above:

10-Strand Coral and Turquoise Heishi Necklace by Frank Ortiz, San Felipe Pueblo

5-Strand Turquoise Spirit Necklace by Doris Coriz, Santo Domingo Pueblo

Turquoise Petit Point Cluster Pin Pendant by Kevin Quam, Zuni

Sterling Silver Kokopelli Belt Buckle by Steven Sockyma, Hopi


Pueblo also refers to a stone or adobe communal building – one that houses multiple families and is for use by other members of the community. The apartment-like structures were/are multi-level with ladder access.  Pueblos often had a common courtyard or plaza.


Santo Domingo Turquoise Slab Necklace

Seven highly polished Turquoise Slabs with handmade Turquoise beads and Branch Coral in between.

The middle slab hangs like a pendant.

Santo Domingo Turquoise Slab Necklace

Santo Domingo Turquoise Slab Necklace by James & Doris Coriz

These turquoise stones have wonderful matrix. Each side has a different, beautiful character.

Truly beautiful and very unique.

Adjustable 22-24 inches