One of our most enjoyable days in New Mexico during Santa Fe Indian Market time was a visit with Delbert ChargingCrow, a Lakota Sioux carver living in Albuquerque. During the visit we looked at a number of new carvings done by Delbert since we last saw him. Some of these have been posted to our ZuniLink website.
We also had a long conversation with Delbert. He is a fascinating, very spiritual person. He reminded us of the healing power that he invests in each of his carvings. He also shared with us certain aspects of his carvings that we were not aware of.
For example, when bears have turning heads, they are male bears, For some people, they also represent the turning around of a life on a bad path. With so many of us heading in directions about which we are uncertain or that we feel may be self-destructive, the turning bear takes on great significance as a source of support and healing. (Delbert carves female bears as linear and moving forward.)
All of Delbert’s bears and all his carvings include a package of spiritual stones, feathers and small leather pouches. These add power and spiritual strength to each carving.
When Delbert carves a horse, it always also has a small "walking stick” attached to the power package. He furnishes it so that the rider can dismount and have the walking stick for support as he or she continues the journey.
Of course, with his heritage as a Plains Indian, Delbert considers the horse as a particularly important animal to carve, just as it was for his ancestors.
Delbert also told us the structure of the elk’s antler rack replicates two hands, eight fingers and two thumbs, joined together in prayer. It signifies the elk's intervention with the higher spirit. It’s something you don’t notice until it is pointed out. It definitely is there, just as Delbert intends it.
Occasionally, Delbert is drawn by the opportunity to carve more whimsical creatures, such as turtles, donkeys, rabbits, eagles, hawks and others. All are carved in Delbert’s inimicable, unmistakable style.
We have added some of these to our selection available for purchase.
People often look querulous when the so-called “healing power” of Native American fetish carvings is mentioned.
A little history: The concept of stone fetishes had its genesis in stones that were found on the ground in native lands after rainstorms. Many of them had shapes and characteristics resembling animals. It was believed by Zuni Indians in pre-historical times that these were actual animals that were petrified into stone when struck by lightning.
It was further believed that power of the original animal also was preserved in the stone. Healing and protection in bears. Long life in turtles. Fruitfulness in frogs. Wisdom in eagles. Cunning in wolves.
Eventually, Zuni carvers went beyond the inherent form of the stone to carve in characteristics that they associated. Even then, the carver only carves elements and forms that he or she sees already present in the material.
(Delbert pointed out that his own experience is that when a carver tries to carve an animal that isn't actually in the stone, the material fractures. The carver is forced either to throw the material away or look for another animal that may be hiding in the remnant stone.)
Fast forward to other tribes that adopted and adapted the carving of creatures and items reflective of the culture of that tribe. Navajo carvers tended to concentrate on domestic and livestock animals, as protectors of their flocks and herds.
Cochiti carvers, such as Salvador Romero and Wilson Romero, backtracked into forms that are more unpolished and crude, based on natural stone found on the Cochiti Pueblo.
Melvin Sandoval, from San Felipe Pueblo, married a Zuni woman and brought his unique modernistic style to fetish carving.
Delbert, a Lakota Sioux, was inspired to contribute his gift for carving and his native spiritualism as a healer to the genre.
It is true that carvings are not considered "fetishes" unless they have been blessed by a tribal priest. It also is generally accepted, however, that any carving which embodies the form and spirit of an animal may convey the power and magic of that creature, if the owner of the carving believes in it and takes care of the carving.
Delbert lives in Albuquerque and uses the public bus to take his granddaughter to school each day. He is a source of strength and guidance for this young lady. We admire his artistry, his soft-spoken spiritualism and his dedication to family.
We count it a great privilege to be able to consider Delbert ChargingCrow a great friend as well as a source for carvings that magical in the way the look and the solace they bring to life. Dozens of his carvings are available for purchase at ZuniLink.com.
Thank you for reading.