Zuni Eagle Dancer Pin/Pendant - Adrian & Elizabeth Wallace (#01)

Zuni Jewelry
1 3/4" x 2 3/4"

Zuni artists Adrian and Elizabeth Wallace tag teamed the construction of this sterling silver Eagle Dancer setting with the idea of accommodating precious stones. The Eagle Dancer is set with mother-of- pearl, gold lip, fresh water muscle shell and Penn shell along with turquoise, coral, jet and spiny oyster.  Now that is a cornucopia of color.  Adrian and Elizabeth's Eagle Dancer is alive with motion; it is so realistic it seems to dance off the fabric.



Of all birds in Native American mythology, the eagle is the most important as symbol, sacrificial / ceremonial presence, and ultimate predator/ warrior. The solitary mystery and power of the eagle as perceived by the Indian was immediately grasped by the emerging nation of the United States, and "borrowed" for its logo. Pg. 192

The Gift of the Gila Monster, Navajo Ceremonial Tales; 1993; Gerald Hausman.

Don't bother baby hawks or eagles. You'll get a rash or sores on your body. Pg. 82

Navajo Taboos; 1991, Ernie Bulow.

Eagles ('atsa) (P, H), expert and powerful fliers, are believed to derive from Cliff Monster.
Scavenger of the Bead Chant placed in an eagle's nest by hostile pueblo people, refused to deliver the eaglets to them. He lived with the Eagles for some time, learning about their home and their customs. When the old Eagles came home at night, they took off their downy garments, which opened down the front, revealing human forms in white suits which were never removed.
Eagle feathers were of great value to the Navaho in their ceremonies, but the Eagles of this story shook skin diseases, sores, irritations, and itching on their enemies.
The bald eagle is held to be the 'first' or ' chief.' In the story of the Eagle Chant, Monster Slayer, learning the details of eagle catching, did not make the chant symbol until he was able, by repeating his experiments, to catch a bald eagle.
Hill's account of eagle catching should be compared with the stories of the Eagle and Bead chants; each record has much to contribute to the others (Reichard, Shooting Chant ms.; 1939, pp. 26-36; Haile 1938b, p.121; Matthews 1897, pp. 195-208; Newcomb 1940b, pp.50-97).

Navajo Religion, Vol II; Gladys A. Reichard, 1950

Zuni Fetishes

Jish is best described as the Navajo medicine practitioner’s equivalent to a Western doctor’s “little black bag”.  Everything needed for numerous ceremonies is painstakingly gathered over many years.  Even though all the individual elements of a jish are not used in every ceremony, the complete contents are required to be present at every ceremony.  Showing up with only partial contents of a jish is akin to arriving with half an ambulance.  In other words, the patient is short-changed by not having the full power of the contents of a complete jish.  For clarification, jish refers not only to the complete bundle, but also everything contained within that medicine bundle.

In her definitive book, Navajo Medicine Bundles or Jish, Acquisition, Transmission, and Disposition in the Past and Present, author Charlotte Frisbie writes about fetishes as a part of Changing Woman’s sacred jish:

“This bundle represents Changing Woman's bundle which was brought to the Earth's surface by First Man and which was the source of all surface life. The mountain earth bundle contains earth collected from the four (or six) sacred mountains. Pollen is applied to the earth from each mountain and each is wrapped separately in unwounded buckskin and tied with buckskin thongs. A precious jewel is attached to each of the resulting pouches to indicate its directional association. Between these pouches are placed stick-like cylinders of mirage stone (aragonite), agate, and quartz. Stone figures of horses, game, and other things are also added. Then everything is covered with pollen and all of the individual pouches are wrapped in unwounded buckskin to form the bundle”.

As are most fetish collectors, I was initially more familiar with Zuni fetishes and their representations.  As my studies proceeded deeper into Navajo culture, the use of personal fetish pouches by Navajo people as well as their presence in jish came to my attention.  Navajo people take great pride in their livestock whether they be horses, cattle, sheep or goats.  Again, Charlotte Frisbie explains the “little medicine bags”.

“The tiny bags for pollen are made of buckskin and usually also contain small fetishes or other items. These pollen bags, like the personal pollen sacks carried by lay Navajos, reportedly are more likely to have beadwork or other decorations than are the other small medicine sacks”.

The Navajo people often call on their neighbors, the Zuni, to carve small horses, cattle, or sheep which they may carry in a little medicine bag as an added protection for their herds and flocks.  While it is true that a great number of Navajo people are called upon to carve a myriad of animals for a demanding fetish market, some also follow in the tradition of providing these special protection animals for personal use.

Harold Davidson and Lee Bedonie are two of the finest Navajo fetish carvers working today.  Harold likes to follow in the tradition of creating the protecting livestock figures such as sheep, goats and horses as well as the more exotic bears and bison.  Lee tends toward the livestock animals, preferring donkeys, horses, goats and for fun, throws in the occasional chicken.  Their carvings are beautifully executed with distinctive details wrought in their favorite pipestone and alabaster materials.

---Georgiana Kennedy Simpson