One of the all time coolest and most meaningful souvenirs we've gotten on any trip are the Native American fetishes we purchased on our trip to New Mexico. If you are like me, when you hear the word fetish you think of a weird obsession with sexual overtones like a foot fetish. Fetishes are also amulets or good luck charms and every culture has them. In Native American culture fetishes are small stones or other natural substances carved to resemble particular animals. Native Americans carry these carvings with them in an effort to channel the spirit and traits of those particular animals especially on a hunt or other journey. As a form of contemporary Native American Art they are sold with non-religious intentions to collectors worldwide.
I had never seen or heard of them until I happened upon them in some shops in Old Town Albuquerque and Santa Fe and came to find out they are highly collectible depending on the material, shape, and artist who carved it. The tribe best known for their fetish carvings are the Zuni tribe who are fabulous artisans also famous for their turquoise and silver jewelry. Be forewarned, some fetishes depending on the material can be quite pricey. Always try to make sure you are dealing with someone reputable. I too was fooled and found out too late that one fetish that I was told was "turquoise" was actually plastic.
Click here for a link to a guide that explains what each animal represents.
On our trip I purchased a nice selection of these (be careful they can be quite addicting because of their beauty and spiritual connection) and they sit on my souvenir shelf at home making a really interesting conversation piece when folks come by to visit. Because I was really taken by the concept, I used this opportunity to buy each of my children a special fetish, an animal that represented their best qualities and according to Native American lore might aid them in their journey through life (though I may not be a true believer, I love the symbolism).
During our visit to the Taos Pueblo some of the residents were selling very small buckskin pouches and I bought one for each child and put their fetish inside with a special note inscribed with the reason for my choice and my wishes for their future. Though they were too young at the time to appreciate the sentiment, the pouches sit on the shelf waiting for the day when they leave for college taking with them all the lessons they have learned at home and in our travels. This August as Lilia heads off to the University of Maryland. I will hide the fetish and the note inside the buckskin pouch in on of her bags and hope and pray that in addition to any wisdom I may have been able to impart to her, she will think about the animal I chose for her and strive to emulate it's finest qualities.