Many years ago, the Zuni people came up to this
Earth from the underworld at a place that is identified as either
the Grand Canyon or the Mojave Desert. They call the area where
they live as the center or middle place.
The Zuni are thought to be direct descendants
of the Anasazi. While many anthropologists believe that the Zuni
are related to the other pueblo tribes that are scattered throughout
the Southwest, they are unique in that their language, to this day,
is only spoken by them and bears no resemblance to the languages
of any of the other surrounding tribes. Their language is often
According to Zuni cosmology, everything in the universe from natural
forces such as lighting, wind, or great droughts, to physical entities,
such as rocks, animals, rivers, and human beings has its own spirit.
Each of these spirits has the power to observe, think, and respond
to humankind. An inanimate object, such as a rock or a lump of dirt,
is believed to possess a spirit similar to that of a hibernating
bear or a seed that has not yet been planted. The power is simply
dormant, for the moment.
For the traditional Zuni, a fetish is just one aspect of a complex
religion whose central goal is to achieve a balance with nature.
Throughout the Zuni religion, there is great reverence for the unseen
world and the mysterious forces that continue to impact on all life.
There are twelve shamanistic societies. These not only treat sickness
but participate as societies and perform feats of wonder for the
people, each has several orders or degrees and each order is the
custodian of some secret of healing or magic.
The Zuni people are in a way a mysterious tribe. Their culture is
very reclusive and isolated much as is their city and their language.
They are an interesting people who are well known for their beautiful
artwork, sculpture, weavings and jewelry.
The Zuni do two types of intricate jewelry one of which is called
petit point. It is identified by tiny turquoise stones each supported
in its own bezel. Its extremely time consuming to make and
is very delicate in appearance.
The other type of jewelry is called inlay. Here again, stones are
worked and then fit together, sometimes side by side, or with silver
channels in between them, known as channel inlay. Each piece is
meticulously fabricated; the Zunis do not cast the silver. The predominant
colors and stones used in traditional Zuni inlay are turquoise,
coral, jet, and white mother of pearl. Symbolically red represents
the Mother Earth, and turquoise Father Sky. The black and white
of the other stones is a further representation of dualities.