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Turquoise: Its Significance in Native American Culture

Turquoise is a semi-precious stone that has been held in high esteem for thousands of years, as a talisman and a holy stone, by everyone from the Ancient Egyptians to the ancient Persian Empire. It is described in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible. Europeans associated the stone with protection for horses and riders. But it perhaps has no greater association than that it shares with the Native American peoples, for whom it is sacred, particularly for those of the US Southwest. This is why it is so popular in Native American art and Native American turquoise jewelry.

What is Turquoise?

Turquoise is a natural mineral containing copper and aluminium, and has been prized as a gemstone for millennia. It is rare in its finer grades and has been found in Iran, Sinai, Bulgaria, China, Tibet, Afghanistan, Australia, India, Chile, Cornwall (UK), Turkestan, and the Southwest US.

Turquoise has many spiritual properties according to both ancient and New Age wisdom and it is important in Wicca and spiritualism. These properties include protection, attunement, cleansing, and prosperity.

Turquoise is perceived to have the ability to change colour depending upon its environment; for this reason, it is a “living stone” of profound importance to Native Americans. Archaeologists have found turquoise in pre-Columbian burial sites in Mexico, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Chile, and throughout Central America.

Turquoise and the Native Americans

The Native Americans believe the Earth is a living being, and all things are precious in nature. The Navajo have a legend whereby after a long period of drought, when it finally rains, human tears seeped into the earth and turquoise formed from them.

Turquoise is said to represent life and the colours of the earth and the sky, connecting the two. The Navajo believe that a piece of turquoise is actually a piece of the sky, fallen to earth. Native American nations, including the Navajo, Acoma Pueblo, and traditionally the Maya and the Aztecs, associated turquoise with spirit communication, healing, and good fortune.

  • The Navajo believe this stone brings good fortune, and they store it hanging from the ceiling or in baskets to protect their families from evil. It was also brought into battle by Navajo warriors to keep them from harm. It was thrown into the river when praying to the god of rain, and it is very commonly given as a gift.
  • According to Navajo legend, there is a goddess named Estsanatlehi who was born from turquoise and is adorned with the stone. She is honoured in Navajo coming of age ceremonies.
  • The Pima of southern Arizona associate turquoise with healing and great skill.
  • Apache people associate the stone with rain found at the rainbow’s end. They tied pieces of turquoise to their bows to keep them safe and give then strength and skill in battle.
  • The Hopi believed that turquoise is the waste product of a lizard that travels between the heavens and the earth.
  • Zuni believe that the stone offers protection from demons, as did the Inca, Maya, and Aztecs. The Zuni also believe green turquoise represents women whereas blue turquoise represents men.
  • The Ojibwe have a powerful dreamcatcher featuring a turquoise spider, representing Asibikaashi (Spider Woman) who returned the missing sun to their people.

Turquoise at Indian Traders

The Navajo and Zuni in particular incorporated turquoise into their jewelry and wearing this jewelry is a powerful way to honor the stone and pay homage to these tribes. We have a wide array of beautiful, authentic Native American turquoise jewelryhere at Indian Traders. Talented Southwest American Indian artisans from the Hopi, Zuni and Navajo nations have created a vast range of Native American necklaces, bracelets and much more using sterling silver, turquoise, and other semi-precious gemstones that are significant to the land and its original inhabitants. Browse our full range today.