Zuni Knife-Wing

The Zuni Knife-wing figure was a favorite among tourists during the early 1900’s. As described by anthropologist Frank Hamilton Cushing, who lived with the Zunis from 1879-1884:
“This curious god is the hero of hundreds of folklore tales, the tutelary deity of several societies of Zuni. He is represented as possessing a human form, furnished with flint knife-feathered pinions, and tail. His dress consists of the conventional terraced cap (representative of his dwelling place among the clouds)… His weapons are the Great Flint-Knife of War, the Bow of the Skies (the Rainbow), and the Arrow of Lightning. His guardians or warriors are the Great Mountain Lion of the North and that of the upper regions. He was doubtless the original War God of the Zunis.”

Zuni silversmith Horace Iule is credited with creating the first knife-wing design in the late 1920s. His first one was cut and filed out of wrought silver. Loved by Indian traders, they asked him to make more. Later, the knife-wing became one of the first designs that the Zuni jewelry artists inlaid with stones.