A fetish for New Mexico

VISITORS to Santa Fe, N.M., can spirit home a bit of Indian tradition in the palms of their hands.

Zuni fetishes, tiny stone carvings in the shapes of animals, are believed to summon each creature's traits within its owner. Snakes help discard old habits and views, for instance. Bears assist in healing, and frogs bring fertility.

Part of the Zuni culture for more than 1,000 years, fetishes continue to be crafted at the Zuni Pueblo in western New Mexico. Carvers traditionally use travertine, turquoise or onyx, although younger artists are incorporating new materials such as glass. Prices start around $15 to hundreds of dollars for a piece by an established artist.

Of all the museums in central Santa Fe, two stand out for fetish shopping. The Institute of American Indian Art Museum Store, directly across from St. Francis Cathedral, carries about 200 mostly small fetishes in the $20-to-$100 range. The gift shop at the nearby Palace of Governors, a historical museum, also has about 75 fetishes under glass.

IAIA Museum, 108 Cathedral Place; (505) 983-8900, Ext. 112, . Palace of the Governors, 105 W. Palace Ave.; (505) 476-5100, .

In a small store off Santa Fe's main plaza, Keshi: The Zuni Collection is the best place for an overview. The store, founded in 1981 as a co-op for Zuni artists, features dozens of snapshots of the pueblo, and artists drop into the store to show the owner their latest works. Prices range from $6 for thumbnail-size carvings sold at the counter to $925 for a corn maiden necklace carved of fossilized ivory by Sandra Quandelacy.

227 Don Gaspar; (505) 989-8728, .


On the city's plaza, Eagle Dancer offers a range of Native American jewelry and crafts. The Zuni fetishes occupy one case in the large store and include notable artists such as Daniel Quam and Dinah Gaspar.

57 Old Santa Fe Trail; (505) 986-2055.


Next door to Eagle Dancer, Packards is a posh store that claims to be the oldest Native American arts and crafts purveyor on the plaza. The Zuni fetish collection includes an $85 malachite eagle by Lena Boone and a $650 set of six directions by Andres Quandelacy.

61 Old Santa Fe Trail; (505) 983-9241, .

— Joyzelle Davis