Glossary of Southwest Native American Art Terms
Attribution: a personal impression based on one’s knowledge and published data and cannot ever be absolute, however, there are published examples of pottery vessels with designs that may be compared with other jars, which will assist in making an attribution that is based on something other than guesses.
AT&SF: The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (reporting mark ATSF), often abbreviated as Santa Fe or AT&SF, was one of the larger railroads in the United States. Chartered in February 1859, the railroad reached the Kansas-Colorado border in 1873 and Pueblo, Colorado, in 1876. To create a demand for its services, the railroad set up real estate offices and sold farm land from the land grants that it was awarded by Congress. Despite the name, its main line never served Santa Fe, New Mexico, as the terrain was too difficult; the town ultimately was reached by a branch line from Lamy.
Avanyu: a deity of the Tewa Pueblos—San Ildefonso, Tesuque, San Juan, Santa Clara, Nambe, and Pojoaque—and is the guardian of water. He is represented as a horned or plumed serpent with curves suggestive of flowing water or the zig-zag of lightning. He appears on the walls of caves located high above canyon rivers in New Mexico and Arizona and may be related to the feathered serpent of Mesoamerica— Quetzalcoatl and related deities.
Casein: paint, derived from milk casein (milk protein), is a fast-drying, water-soluble medium used by artists.
Ceremonial Break: a break in framing line design on pottery.
Chongo - Chonga: Pueblo and Navajo hair style where the hair is tied in the back of the head in a bun. Male = chongo, female = chonga.
Copyright - Photography: All works published in the United States before 1923 are in the public domain. Works published after 1922, but before 1978 are protected for 95 years from the date of publication. If the work was created, but not published, before 1978, the copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. It's still the accepted custom or courtesy to give credit to the source and photographer (if known).
Diné: when we say Diné, as opposed to Navaho or Navajo, we are referring to the people and not the government. Since 1969, their government refers to itself as the Navajo Nation.
En Plein Air: a French expression which means "in the open air," and is particularly used to describe the act of painting outdoors.
Feast Day: a celebration of dancing and food to celebrate and honor the official Saint at each of the Pueblos.
Fetish: Zuni fetishes are small carvings made from various materials by the Zuni people. These carvings have traditionally served a ceremonial purpose for their creators and depict animals and icons integral to their culture. As a form of contemporary Native American art, they are sold with secular intentions to collectors worldwide. -Source: Wikipedia
Gouache: an opaque watercolor paint. Whereas transparent watercolors allow you to see the "white" of the paper below the paint, gouache can be applied in solid colors. This allows an artist to paint in layers from dark to light.
Heartline: The heartline is used primarily by Zuni Pueblo potters and can be seen in many animals – usually a deer (heartline deer). The line from the mouth to the heart signifies the "breath of life."
Hieshe or Hieshi: made from either turquoise or seashell. The shells are first cut into small square sections, drilled in the center, strung on wire or string, then sanded by hand, in an up and down stroke, until each one is round. That sounds easy but is not. It is important to exert the same pressure on every stroke to achieve hieshe of the same diameter when finished. The shell is punched out in a square shape, hole drilled though center, strung, and then sanded to the diameter it needs to be. According to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, the beaded tradition is most closely associated with Santo Domingo Pueblo, known for creating beautiful shell and gemstone beads by hand. These beads are called "heishi," which means "shell" in the Santo Domingo language Keres. Necklaces with similar bead styles have been found in the ancient Anasazi sites Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde, and heishi may be the oldest form of jewelry in New Mexico. Traditionally, heishi beads are smooth flat discs, but today the term is used to refer to any small beads that are strung together.
Jacklas: means ear strings, were originally made to be worn as earrings. Later, they became an addition to what is considered to be the most traditional form of pueblo necklace.
Kachina: old way of spelling Katsina. There is no "ch" sound in the Pueblo languages - so it more accurate to use a "T" as in Katsina.
Ketohs: arm bands for bow hunting usually made out of leather.
The Kiowa Six, previously known as the Kiowa Five, is a group of six Kiowa artists from Oklahoma in the early 20th century. They were Spencer Asah, James Auchiah, Jack Hokeah, Stephen Mopope, Lois Smoky, and Monroe Tsatoke. -Wikipedia
Knifewing: a Zuni Spirit who is half-man, half-eagle.
Kokopelli: a fertility deity, usually depicted as a humpbacked flute player (often with feathers or antenna-like protrusions on his head), who has been venerated by some Native American cultures in the Southwestern United States. Like most fertility deities, Kokopelli presides over both childbirth and agriculture. He is also a trickster god and represents the spirit of music. (source: Wikipedia)
Koosa - Koshari: a very important figure in Pueblo society seen as a black and white striped clown who demonstrates to the children "what NOT to do" oftentimes through their actions. Don't smoke, drink, say bad words, treat others badly, or be lazy. They are oftentimes seen as leaders in a dance procession. The stripes of the Koshari are usually horizontal.
Los Cincos Pintores: Fremont Ellis joined with Willard Nash, Jozef Bakos, Walter Mruk, and Will Shuster to form one of Santa Fe's earliest artist groups, Los Cincos Pintores. Although the members of the group built houses adjacent to one another's on the Camino Del Monte Sol and maintained a close friendship all their lives, the association was one of convenience and shared interest, not one based on a common painting style.
Migration Pattern: represents the migration of the Hopi through four worlds. The parallel lines presumably represent the migration of the Hopi.
Mother-n-law Bell: the Navajo mother-in-law bell is worn by the mother-in-law to warn her son-in-law of her impending arrival. The Navajo believe that the two must not lay eyes on each other.
Moki: An old word used to refer to s Hopi Pueblo person. It is now considered a derogatory term and is no longer used.
Mudhead - Koyemsi: A Zuni emergence myth tells us that the Zuni began a migration as soon as they entered this world. They first elected leaders for this migration-the son and daughter of the village chief-who went ahead of the others. During the trip, the brother became enamored with his sister and copulated with her. The result of this incestuous relationship was the birth of ten children that night. Nine of the ten were misshapen, impotent, and witless, and they became known as the Koyemshi-also known as the Mudhead. The ten Zuni Mudheads resemble each other but actually are different in their masks and gear.
Naja: Early Navajo-made jewelry contained elements that were borrowed directly from Spanish colonial and Mexican ornament. One of these items is the naja, a crescent form of Moorish origin. The Spanish conquerors in the Southwest outfitted their horses in elaborate silver ornaments—one of which was the naja that hung directly on the forehead of the horse as a part of the bridle.
Piki: a bread made from corn meal used in Hopi cuisine.
Polychrome: 3 or more colors.
Prolific: produce in large numbers or quantities - and often.
Puki Depression: hand coiled Pueblo pottery is started in a flat basket. Once they reach the edges of the basket, they continue coiling. When the pot settles, it slightly pushed over the edge of this basket and creates a discernable impression that can be felt by touch after the firing process.
Pueblo: Spanish name for village. There are currently 19 Pueblo Nations in New Mexico and Arizona. The Pueblos are autonomous, independent, sovereign (self-governing) Native Nations within the United States of America (U.S.). All are within the U.S. State of New Mexico except for Hopi Pueblo which is located in the U.S. State of Arizona.
- Hopi: the language spoken by the Puebloan people of Hopi, Arizona.
- Keres: the language spoken by the Puebloan people of Acoma, Cochiti, Laguna, San Felipe, Santa Ana, Santo Domingo, and Zia Pueblos are so closely related that linguists usually consider them dialects of a single language, known as Keres or Keresan.
- Tewa or Tano: one of three Kiowa-Tanoan languages spoken by the Pueblo people of New Mexico. Though these three languages are closely related, speakers of one cannot fully understand speakers of another. The six Tewa-speaking pueblos are Nambe, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, San Juan, Santa Clara, and Tesuque.
- Tiwa: one of three Kiowa-Tanoan languages spoken by the Pueblo people of New Mexico. Though these languages are closely related, speakers of one cannot fully understand speakers of another. Many Tiwa elders believe that their language is not intended to be written and must be preserved by oral traditions alone. Some Tiwa people disagree with this position and think that using Tiwa as a written language will help keep it alive for future generations. The five Tiwa-speaking pueblos are Isleta, Picuris, Sandia, Taos, Tigua (Ysleta del Sur Pueblo).
- Towa or Jemez: the language spoken by the Puebloan people of Jemez.
- Zuñi: the language spoken by the Puebloan people of Zuni.
Pueblo Wrap: string wrapped around and coiled tightly - usually used in necklaces to secure them.
San Ildefonso Watercolor Movement: Romando Vigil was one of the San Ildefonso self-taught artists in the early part of the 20th century. He was a leader within the San Ildefonso Watercolor Movement, a movement that caught fire during 1915 to 1917. It fostered an art form unmatched in the cultural history of the world. These men portrayed tribal culture and local wildlife, attaining a flat decorative character, absent of backgrounds and foregrounds, and free of traditional perspective, with an unerring color sense. Their success in these presentations was due to their understanding the ceremonials they painted because they had participated in them since childhood. They understood the meanings of the symbolism they interpreted.
Sgraffito Carving: A method of pottery design known as sgraffito carving is relatively new in pueblo pottery traditions. Rather than deep carving, as is more traditional at Santa Clara Pueblo, sgraffito is achieved by scraping the vessel with a sharp instrument to achieve a shallow depth. The pottery is formed in the traditional coil method, slipped with a watery clay and stone polished before the sgraffito carving commences.
Shalako: a series of dances and ceremonies conducted by the Zuni people at the winter solstice, typically following the harvest. The Shalako ceremony and feast has been closed to non-native peoples since 1990.
Sterling Silver: an alloy of silver containing 92.5 by weight of silver and 7.5 by weight of other metals, usually copper. The sterling silver standard has a minimum millesimal fineness of 925.
Sunface: The two sections of the Sunface image represent two important ideas. The first is the pairing of one with the family. To the Zuni people family is as critical to life as food and water and they also believe each person is unique and special. Each requires the other, and both become represented as a main component in the Sunface. The other meaning is to symbolize the coming and going of the sun; sunrise and sunset or day and night. The continuity of these events gives hope and stability to the Zuni, - neither can exist without the other.
Tableta: Older tabletas were made from wood that generally was salvaged from shipping crates obtained from the local trading post. They are made for girls and women to wear during the dances.
Taos Society of Artists was an organization of visual arts founded in Taos, New Mexico in 1915; it disbanded in 1927. The Society was essentially a commercial cooperative, as opposed to a stylistic collective, and its foundation contributed to the development of the tiny Taos art colony into an international art center. The Founders: Joseph Henry Sharp, Ernest L. Blumenschein, Bert Geer Phillips. (Wikipedia)
Tempera: known as egg tempera, is a permanent, fast-drying painting medium consisting of colored pigments mixed with a water-soluble binder medium (usually a glutinous material such as egg yolk or some other size). Tempera also refers to the paintings done in this medium.
Tufa Casting: Tufa stone is a compressed volcanic ash material that is found on or near the Navajo Nation. It is easy to carve into a mold. Its porous surface leaves a unique texture once the poured metal has cooled in the mold. Tufa casting is labor-intensive and the process involves many steps.
United Indian Traders Association (UITA): formed in 1931 to insure quality craftsmanship in Native American art. The association had strict rules regarding the methods used to make jewelry. A UITA stamp was a guarantee the item was hand made by a member of an enrolled tribe. Traders paid dues and each post had its own number.
Warp and Weft: In weaving, the weft (sometimes woof) is the term for the thread or yarn which is drawn through, inserted over-and-under, the lengthwise warp yarns that are held in tension on a frame or loom to create cloth. Warp is the lengthwise or longitudinal thread in a roll, while weft is the transverse thread. A single thread of the weft, crossing the warp, is called a pick. Terms do vary (for instance, in North America, the weft is sometimes referred to as the fill or the filling yarn). Each individual warp thread in a fabric is called a warp end or end. The weft is a thread or yarn usually made of spun fibre. The original fibres used were wool, flax or cotton. Today, man-made fibres are often used in weaving. Because the weft does not have to be stretched on a loom in the way that the warp is, it can generally be less strong. The weft is threaded through the warp using a "shuttle", air jets or "rapier grippers." Hand looms were the original weaver's tool, with the shuttle being threaded through alternately raised warps by hand. A useful way of remembering which is warp and which is weft is: 'one of them goes from weft to wight'. -Wikipedia
Whirling Log Symbol: the swastika - or "svastika" from the ancient Sanskrit language - is one of our most universal and positive symbols. Literally it means "auspicious mark", but in various cultures it has signified well-being, highest perfection, happiness, pleasure or good luck.
Yei: Yei figures are sacred to Navajo people, as they allow communication between humans and their gods. These “Guardian Rainbow” Yei figures protect the dancers below them. Also note that when we say Diné (as opposed to Navaho or Navajo), we are referring to the people and not the government. Since 1969, their government refers to itself as the Navajo Nation.