Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Native American Symbols - Natural Forces and Objects

Below are many of the most commonly used symbols in Native American arts & crafts. Navajo, Hopi, Pueblo and Zuni artists all use them.  The descriptions and definitions have come from traditional stories, opinions of artists & reservation traders and from reading many of the fine books sold by Treasure Chest Publications. For many hours of great Southwest flavored reading order their catalog at 1-800-969-9558.

The Clouds, Rain & Lightning. Representing themselves. They are important symbols for change, renewal & fertility. Related to snow which is a higher blessing than rain.

The Morning Star. The brightest star on the dawn's horizon. Considered an important spirit and honored as a kachina with most Pueblo Indians. Plains and the Great Basin Indians honored it as a sign of courage and purity of spirit. The Ghost Dance Religion associated it as a symbol of the coming renewal of tradition and resurrection of past heroes. Other spirits are sometimes represented as stars.

The Sun. Life giver. Warmth, growth, and all that is good & well. The style shown is the sun used as a kachina mask. Many styles are seen in all of the Southwestern Indian cultures. "Rays" signifying the 4 directions are seen in some of these styles.

The Zia. Named for Zia Pueblo, who first used it, it is another symbol of the sun, and also of the 4 directions and the repetition of life on earth. Also may be associated with the place of emergence. When New Mexico became a State, in 1912, the Zia was adopted as the symbol for the State Flag. It appears as the sun in red, honoring the Indian Nations, on a yellow field. Yellow was the royal color of the Spanish crown carried by the conquistador Coronado in 1540, known as his entrance into New Mexico. It was the first recorded European contact with the North American Indians.

Life's Choices. "The-man-in-the-maze" is a very popular design that was originally created as an illustration of an emergence story by the Tohono o'odham or Papago Indians of the Central Valley in Arizona. The little man is named "U'ki'ut'l" in their language. It has been adopted by many other people. It is significant of life's cycles and eternal motion and also of the choices we are always confronted with. Correct choices lead us to harmony with all things, no matter how long & hard the road can get. Utilized by Hopi silversmiths as a way to showcase their high quality & technique.


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