Native American Sculptures

Native Americans used sculptures in various religious ceremonies; the Zuni are the most notable tribe for their use and creation. The true name of these sculptures, is "fetishes" and are representations of living things typically carved out of bone, shells, antlers and stone. They differ in representation form tribe to tribe and each individual tribe developed their own styles of carving and techniques used to carve. The Zuni fetishes were more totemic and had eyes and inlaid stones to denote different parts of the facial features. Other tribes, such as the Pueblo, used them in succession on a fetish necklace as devices for storytelling. Where stone and clay were unavailable the tribes used wood and became master carvers with knives and blades.

The Algonquin tribes and Iroquois carved elaborate staffs, masks and bowls for use in dances, tribal ceremonies and for secular reasons such as virility and good fortune. Bowls were carved using a combination of techniques. A controlled fire is used to first hollow out as much of the wood block as possible. Then blades of copper or iron were used to carve out the remaining area and finally a slow burn was used to smooth out the interior. Each tribe had their own style of carving, but generally used similar techniques. The Plains tribes used a clay known as pipestone and used small chipping techniques to cut away at the stone. Generally ceremonial pipes and bowls were made by these tribes, such as the Ojibway.

Beliefs differ from one tribe to another but many believe in six directions or six elements. The Zuni had animal spirits associated with each of the six directions as well as an associated color. In a hunting ceremony the arrowheads would be placed on a fetish during the ceremony and the strength and protection of the animal spirit is believed guide to guide the hunter's weapons to their target. The fetishes were used as offerings, blessings, gifts to the spirits and good fortune trinkets. Perhaps the most famous of all Native American sculptures are the totems. Totems describe the lineage of a tribe or depict legends of their faith. Totems featured the most prominent or important figures at the top of the pole.

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