Zuni Bear CarvingsMany cultures produce talisman-type carvings, but the most renowned carvers are undoubtedly the Zuni of the Southwest. Native American carvings of this type are conventionally known as “fetishes” in the art and museum world. These small carved animals, when properly blessed and used, are believed to have a power greater than the object itself would naturally possess. These talismans can be carved from precious stones, minerals, crystals, fossils, shell, or wood, and often have decorative elements of turquoise or coral. The Zuni use these objects for many purposes. The can be used in curing ceremonies, for protection of both individuals and the community, and to bring abundance and fertility. The Bear is one of the most important talisman animals throughout the Southwest because so many Native and Non-Native Americans feel an affinity for it. Each of the four directions, plus the sky and underground, has a protective animal associated with it. The Bear is associated with the West. Many of these carvings have a Heartline design – an arrow pointing into the center of the animal, which represents the powerful breath of life.
This exhibit of bear carvings was conceptualized and assembled by student volunteer, Brianna Peterson.