What Are the Arts and Crafts of the Pueblo Indians?

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The Pueblo Indians’ arts and crafts include pottery, baskets, weaving, stone carvings and heishi jewelry. All of these arts are created in unique styles that the different Pueblo peoples have developed from their culture and religion, many of them unchanged for centuries.

The Pueblo Indians are a group of several tribes in the southwestern United States, including the Zuni, Hopi, Acoma and Taos. Each tribe has developed distinctive art designs for their crafts, but some motifs and patterns are common to all of them. Geometric figures abound on pottery, baskets and weaving, and in long geometric patterns there is a break somewhere to, according to Pueblo tradition, prevent trapping a spirit. Rain, lightning and other important forces of nature are often present in stylized designs. Animals, birds and the popular rain bird are also found in stylized form. The Zuni in particular carve stone into stylized animal forms, making tiny sculpture fetishes called wemawe.

Pueblo heishi, or shell, jewelry is made of small, drilled-out cylindrical beads, often strung in multiple strands. Some heishi crafts include turquoise and other semi-precious stones, but pure heishi never includes precious metals. Some Pueblo craftsmen also make squash-blossom necklaces, heavy silver inlaid with polished shell, turquoise and local stones with a stylized downward-pointing crescent at the center. This jewelry design may have been imported by the Spanish.