Encyclopedia Article


Also referred to as a talisman, an amulet is a small object that, according to specific beliefs, has the power to provide protection or bring good luck. In many Native American traditions, personal amulets were carried in a medicine pouch around the neck or attached to one's clothing. While virtually all tribes across North America used amulets as part of their spiritual belief system, types of amulets and their purposes differed according to geographic areas, climates, or livelihood. Some amulets were made of natural materials such as animal horns, teeth, or feathers, as well as special stones or crystals, while others were hand-crafted out of bone, stone, or wood, and were often carved in the shape of animal or human figures. Amulets carved in the shape of an animal or made out of animal parts were believed to channel the power and characteristics of the particular animal, for example a bear’s strength or an eagle’s speed and endurance.

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"Small bear fetish, made of stone. Light tan with turquoise eyes. Standing on all four feet, May 10, 2009," photograph. Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico.

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