Turquoise is a unique mineral that holds profound significance in Native American culture specific to individual tribes and aborigines. A common belief shared among Native Americans is that everything in the earth is precious and that the planet itself is living. Turquoise is regarded as the stone of life due to its color-changing abilities depending on its environment. Light, acidity and dust all influence the color of the rock and its appearance to the naked eye.
There are several color variations of the stone with some picturing it as a white, yellow-green, blue-green and copper. All these hues are representations of the earth all the more making it profound to the Native Americans.
Use as Jewelry
Owing to its significance and numerous uses, it is only natural that turquoise found its way into jewelry craft. Wearing it was to enable the people to bring its mystical powers of protection and good fortune with them when they traveled. More specifically, the Zuni and Navajo Native Americans have displayed distinct craftsmanship and jeweling technique over the years.
The most common turquoise jewelry features the Square Blossom and Heishi necklaces and turquoise inlay rings. The craft of silver-smith was introduced to the Navajo natives by a man named Atsidi Santi who had mastered the art while working with Mexican silversmiths in the 1850’s. These aboriginals incorporated silver to their craft but also maintained using the turquoise stone significantly in their works.
Turquoise in the Aboriginal Tribes
Belief has it that Native American Indians, experiencing prolonged bouts of drought, danced and rejoiced when it finally rained. The tears they cried for joy seeped into the earth together with the rain to form the turquoise stone. Turquoise holds the color of the sky and the land and thus connecting them.
Due to rain falling from the sky and seeping into the earth with tears forming it, it is usually referred to as the falling sky-stone. The belief of the Navajo is that the stone is a piece of the sky fallen to earth.
Other native tribes including the Mayas, Aztecs and Acoma Pueblo associate the rock with protection, good fortune,well-being, health, and long life. In modern day practice, turquoise holds symbolical prominence to devotees as a medium of protection from bad energy and negativity, to self-confidence and happiness.
Due to the belief that it brings good fortune, the gem is hung in the center of the house by the Navajo to protect their families from evil. Navajo warriors also used it in battle to prevent harm from coming to them. The legend goes of a Navajo goddess popularly known as Estsanatlehi born of the turquoise stone and adorned with it.
South Arizona Pima tribe associate turquoise with healing and well-being. The Hopi aborigines believed that it was a product of lizard excrement and that the lizard travels between the earth and heavenly realms.
A collective belief among the peoples of Zuni, Maya, Aztecs, and Inca was that the stone offered divine protection from evil spirits such as demons. The famous dream catcher of the Ojibwe and Asibikaashi representing the turquoise spider woman, are significant legends. The former protects children from darkness while the latter returned the sun to her people after it had been missing.