Sunday, December 11, 2022

The Story Behind Storytellers


Records suggest that Pueblo Indians of the American southwest began making figurines of open-mouthed mothers holding intently listening children a long time ago. It was a way to salvage clay that could not be used in conventional pots. They were called “singing mothers”.

Then around 1964, a Cochiti Pueblo potter by the name of Helen Cordero, who had struggled to make traditional pots that lived up to her expectations, had an idea. She would use clay to honor her grandfather, Santiago Quintano, who had been a great teller of stories in the Pueblo. Helen Cordero thus created the first storyteller figurine with an elder male. The grandfather was accompanied by five children clustered around him absorbing the details (and presumably, the lessons) of the story.

Step back for a moment and consider. Before social media, before television, before even radio, stories told by senior family members were the only medium by which children were taught. Even then, family members that had lived through life experiences, either first-hand or by stories told to them by senior family members, saw similar events puzzling their youngsters. They also saw that a well-told tale of those events was more interesting and, therefore, more likely of penetrating the mushy brains of children, than a recitation of dry “facts”.

It is not difficult to picture such scenes occurring throughout pueblos and families across the American heartland before Europeans began bringing the mixed blessings of social change and technology to their lives. As one would expect, creating storyteller figures spread across other pottery-making pueblos and tribes. They became popular among collectors as pieces of art or items of d├ęcor. More than that, they were memories of Native American history and survival manifested in clay, clay taken from the same earth that yielded life sustaining food and water.

We also know from “stories” told by potters that creating pottery is often a religious activity accompanied by prayers to Mother Earth when the shaping of the pot begins. Combine that with the cultural significance of the storytelling process. (Even among families nestled in their modern Western-culture homes, the bedtime story read by mom or dad is a staple of learning and growing up.)

We should not be surprised that more than 200 Native American pottery artists in all Pueblos now create storytellers for sale to avid collectors. Their product is carefully judged before purchase, must past high standards of potting excellence and present an aura of family sensitivity to be taken home to occupy a place of love and reverence in the home.

That is the story of storytellers, examples of which can be seen online at

When one considers the correlation between family love and tradition that incorporates mothers and fathers in the healthy care and upbringing of their precious children, one would have a hard time thinking of a more profound gift for a parent at this family-centered season.

"To make good potteries, you have to do it the right way, the old way, and you have to have a special happy feeling inside. All my potteries come out of my heart. I talk to them. They're my little people, not just pretty 8 that I make for money." -Helen Cordero, National Endowment for the Arts, 1986

Saturday, July 02, 2022

Celebrating Freedom

The Fourth of July Holiday officially celebrates “Independence” because the events of that date more than 200 years ago resulted in our Independence from a tyrannical foreign power.

But, using a different term, the ultimate outcome of those events was to preserve and protect God-given rights that make us free: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

So, in 2022 we celebrate freedom. Freedom for every citizen of the United States and for every legal, law abiding resident of those States. Freedom that includes the descendants of the original residents of what were to become those States.

We celebrate freedom with our Native American brothers and sisters who not only share it with us, but have defended it with vigor over the generations. Of special note, are the indigenous people who served in the theaters of World War II.

In memory thereof, we present this Navajo carved Color Guard of U. S. Marine Corps Navajo Code Talkers as a reminder of our shared heritage. It was created by Navajo carver, Renzo Reed. It has an honored place in our personal collection of Native American art.

Two other events of note:

We proudly salute the decision of Santa Fe's Museum of Indian Arts and Culture to open a new permanent exhibit, “Here, Now & Always”, this July Fourth weekend, despite the discouraging economic uncertainties we face as a nation today. If you are fortunate enough to be in Santa Fe in the coming months, including in August when SWAIA's 200th annual Indian Market is in session, take some time to go up to Museum Hill and enjoy this impressive retrospective.

Less impressive, but not without benefit to lovers of indigenous culture,, which now offers  now in “Free Shipping” mode. Any purchase made through the site - Arctic Inuit art,  Native American jewelry, Zuni and Cochiti fetish carvings -will be shipped free of charge to any address within the 48 mainland United States. No matter how many objects are involved, shipping is free.

May your 4th of July be filled with blessings, joy and moments of appropriately solemn reflection about the events we are celebrating.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Do-gooders doing ungood.

St. Lawrence Island is a hard place to live. Just 35 miles from Siberia, it sits in the vortex of brutally cold currents of the Bering Strait. The warmest day of the year - all year - every year - is just 50 degrees fahrenheit. Yet, people live there.

They are Yupik Eskimos. They have lived there for as long as any people have lived in North America.

How do they survive? It's too cold to grow crops. They survive by building skin-covered boats and setting out into the Bering Strait to catch dinner from sea. A successful catch requires towing home a mega-mammal behind their flimsy boats. 

It's demanding, dangerous work. But they have no choice. It's that or starve. So they persist, as they have for centuries,

Setting aside the romanticization of whales (who doesn't love the playful whales an insurance company features in their TV commercials?), these hearty hunters must go out whaling or die. 

Sometimes it is both.

In this unforgiving world, winter nights are looooong. Hours and hours of frigid darkness before the sun appears again. In summer, the reverse prevails with endless days of sunlight.

What do the Yupiks do with that time? They hunt for food and they carve. Learning from their elders, they become prolific artists creating effigies of the creatures who share their world. They consider it a way to honor the sea life that feeds them. 

Yupiks believe the bits and bones left over after the edible parts of the meal have been consumed contain the spirits of their providers. This is the material the sea goddess Sedna provides for them to carve. Just as the blubber provides nutrition, what's left and inedible eventually becomes carvings to sell to the outside world to pay for things the hunt can't provide.

Jason Nowpakohok was a young Yupik who lived with his family in the native community of Gambell on St. Lawrence Island. At 38 years he had become the mayor of Gambell. In 2005, he and his 11-year old daughter set off in his 16-foot skin boat to bring home dinner for the community. They succeeded in getting a large whale intto tow. 

Even with the help other hunters, it must have looked like Lilliputians bring ing Gulliver. The sea was not helping. It churned up dangerous chop and difficult swells. Jason and his daughter never made it back to St. Lawrence Island,

I learned about this years later when researching about a Jason Nowpakahok walrus tusk carving of a polar bear mother and her two cubs, which Jason had signed. We had acquired it in 2004, a year before that tragic event.

As I think about it, several things come to mind. First, every work of native art has a tale to tell. Each isa part of native culture. 

Second, people hunt, harvest and work to express their innner-most feelings about thier cultures: The Inuit do not hunt for fun. Or for scraps of bone and tusk to carve. They harvest whales and other sea life to eat. They carve those materials because they let nothing go to waste.

Third, the highest motives of institutions trying to protect species by enacting sweeping rules - i.e. restricting the sale of all ivory to protect elephant ivory when it restricts non-elephant ivory - often has unintended, unfortunate consequences, like denying hard-earned sustenance from people who benefit from maintaining the health of their resources.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

RIP : Sammy Smith

Sad news about Navajo carver Sammy Smith

We learned recently, when we were approached by an indivdiual who inherited some fetishes carved by Sammy Smith, that Sammy passed away last year. Since we were all caught up in the Covid preoccupation, we failed to travel to Sammy Smith's home turf in New Mexico. 

We first met Sammy Smith in Gallup, New Mexico, several years ago. We were struck by the technical excellence of his carvings and the variety of subjects and treatments. We also were impressed by how gracious he was and how generous he was with ihis time as he shared his experiences as a Navajo carver with us.

Sadly, there will be no new fetish carvings coming from this remarkable talent, a loss to all who knew him and have been fans of his artistry. We still have a few of his pieces available at As a matter of practice, and out out of respect for the carver and the carver's collectors, we do Not raise prices of carvers when they stop carving. With inflation on the horizon (some say it is already here), we may consider price increases after a suitable period. In the meantime, we continue to offer Sammy Smith fetish carvings at the prices they have at since prior to his passing. 

Here's a direct link to his page on the ZuniLink website. 

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Celebrate the birth of Christ.


Celebrate the Birth of Christ with an authentic Native American Nativity.

What better way to demonstrate the universality of God's Love for all his Creation? 

Nativities are wonderful to display at Christmas and often become treasured heirlooms as they are put out each year, Christmas after Christmas.

The richness of these memories can be yours when you bring one of the wonderful works of reverent art at into your home.

Delivery to your address in time for Christmas display is iincluded in the price. 

What's holding you back? Whether you add one of these treasures to your annual Christmas celebration or not, we wish you a blessed Christmas season.

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Sad Corona Virus News for Santa Fe, NM

Coronavirus is not good news for anyone. 
But Santa Fe, which is so dependent on tourism for its livelihood, it is particularly unfortunate. Every year for 99 years, Santa Fe has hosted the SWAIA Indian Market in August. 
This year was to be the 100th anniversary year. It would have been cause for huge celebration. And I mean huge. Indian Market attracts 1000s of Native American artists to present their art and objects for sale. 
Tented booths line the edges of the plaza and adjacent streets. As a result. 10s of 100s of visitors come t0 Santa Fe, New Mexico's capital for the event. Hotels are filled. Restaurants are packed. Shops and Native vendors sell like hot tamales. 
It is more than a boost to the local economy. It is it's lifeblood.
But not this year. 
Coronavirus has stymied normal tourism to Santa Fe and Indian Market has been cancelled, for the safety of all concerned. Collectors of Native America art and jewelry are left to alternative stragies to meet the demands of their collections.
There is one path of resolution. Online galleries, and offer Santa Fe quality fetish carvings and jewelry, Southwest and Pueblo pottery and Navajo folk art respectively at the touch of your smartphone, tablet or computer. 
There's also an unexpected side-benefit: prices are not inflated by Santa Fe overhead or local taxes. And as badly as you may want to leave your house, you don't have to. Anything ordered from these sites will be delivered to your doorstep, with a guaranteed refund if your order disappoints you when you receive it. 
Stay healthy and avoid the crowds while feeding your need for beautiful objects from this rich culture.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

After-Christmas Sale - Save Now

Didn't get exactly what you want at Christmas?

Haven't figured out how to use your tax bonus?, and
have money-saving opportunities for you.

For the first 10 days of 2018, we are reducing by 25% every item in our Zuni fetish, Indian jewelry, Native American pottery and miscellaneous tribal art collection.
There is a catch, however. 

Because so many items are involved, and the prices will return to what the are before the sale, changing every price on the web sites is a ton of work.

So to take advantage of this 25% saving you are asked to call us toll-free at 1-800-305-0185 and let us know what you want to order. We will adjust the price on those items for you alone. and arrange for you to pay using Paypal. It's really simple, and much more personal than using a shopping cart. 

(If you want to order an item to pay off over time, we can arrange that too and will honor those orders as part of this sale.)

Here's what you want to do:

Visit if you are interested in fetish carvings or Native American Indian jewelry. Find the item(s) that turn you on, and call us at 1-800-305-0185 with the inventory number. If those items are still available, we will knock 25% off the listed price, accept your credit card information or and send you a Paypal invoice for the reduced price. When your payment is confirmed, your order will be shipped to you by the next business day.

Or, if Native American Indian and Pueblo pottery are your interest, visit us at and call us at the toll-free number. We will talk you through the same process.

Finally, if you are interested in Native American folk art, You will find those items at Again, when you find something that interests you, call us. We will take it from there.

We hope your 2018 is filled with joy and wonderful Native American and other Tribal treasures