Accessories and Fetishes

Fetish figures within Native American culture are seen as power objects that represent the spirits of animals and the forces of nature. Because these topics are unpredictable, Southwestern tribes use these pieces to aid, protect, heal, and bring luck during a hunt, illness, infertility, etc. The commissioner or owner of the fetish decides what purpose the fetish will serve. For example, Native Americans believe that frogs symbolize fertility, given the amount of tadpoles they produce when fertile. If a couple was struggling to conceive a child, one may commission a frog fetish figure to help aid in getting pregnant. These figures are then placed in a prominent place in the home with honor, like at a family altar. 

The hand-pump drill shown above was originally used to drill holes into shells (or soft stone) used when making heishi (pronounced hee-shee) necklaces. The drill is used by spinning the wooden crossbar to tighten the strings and would be released by the user’s hands to create a drilling motion. The heishi, once drilled, would then be strung and rolled against sandstone in order to smooth the edges into round edges. 

Douthitt, Joe. “Indian Fetishes.” The Wingspread Collector’s Guide to the Albuquerque Metro Area, Volume 3. July 2, 2003.

Giese, Paula. “Heshi, Shells-- Seacoast Trade.” Heishi Beads and Other Shells: Native American Beads,

Accessories and Fetishes