Friday, May 1, 2015

Not THAT Kind of Fetish!

Marc and I were rather surprised when we were initially looking at purchasing Kelly Place, to find that they were selling fetishes.  We were from San Diego—What did we know….?

For those of you (like us) who are unfamiliar with Native American fetishes, here is the scoop:

The Zuni people (northern New Mexico) have, in their tradition, picked up stones which remind them of particular types of animals.  Over time, they began to modify the stones, shaping them to more closely resemble the animals.  Now, there is an entire generation of artists who carve, inlay and shape a wide variety of rock types to represent many different kinds of animals and also corn maidens.  These are not objects of worship, but objects meant to convey a particular trait such as strength or wisdom in honor of or to assist the owner in this characteristic.  It brings the characteristics associated with the animal to the owner.  Others are meant to remind the owner of or bring some connection to a particular aspect of life such as the energy of the earth or the web of life.

This bear is carved from turquoise by Farlan and Paulette Quam.  The bear is a popular fetish animal.  It is the protector and symbolizes physical strength, leadership, and the wild, untamable side of humanity.

We at Kelly Place are proud to offer a variety of unique Zuni fetishes in our gift shop.  They grow on you.  Sometime I have a hard time parting with certain ones (like this bear!).  I have resolved to keep aside my personal favorites and let the others go to good homes.  They are ideal gifts when traveling because they are small and  most will not break easily.  Furthermore, even if you have a collection, you can always find different interesting animals, made from different types of beautiful stone, and carved uniquely by an artist.

Each artist has his or her own recognizable style.  Jayne Quam does the most beautiful and intricate inlaid pieces.  Herbert Halate’s smooth organic style is unmistakable in black jet.  I often suggest that a buyer search the web for the artist who carved their fetish.  It is interesting to see the faces of the artists and the other pieces they have created.

Corn maidens are different from the animal fetishes.  They usually have two sides—one a younger side and the other a more mature.  Often, the corn with which they are associated is also shown as younger and more mature.  Most of them are made from turquoise and the carving is exquisite.  The legend is that the corn maidens brought the corn and saved the Zuni people from starvation.

Other Native American tribes are carving fetishes too, but they are not held in as high a regard as the Zuni fetishes.  The Zunis are the best carvers of fetishes.

For more information, you can refer to these historic articles by Frank Cushing:

or these articles and books about Zuni:

Thursday, April 2, 2015


Yes, it will take you an entire day and you still won’t see everything—even in winter when some of the park is closed. 

In the summer, there are several ranger-guided tours you may take.  They cost $4 per person and may be obtained a day in advance at the park Visitor’s Center near the entrance or the Colorado Welcome Center on Main St. in downtown Cortez.  If you are going with children and don’t have a problem crawling through a short tunnel, Balcony House is the best tour.  You have no other option for viewing Balcony House except for this tour. 

We generally do not recommend the Cliff Palace tour because you are never going into the ruin, only in front of it.  You can see Cliff Palace directly just above it off of Cliff Palace Loop or from a distance on the Mesa Top Loop overlook.  You may do the first option in winter if snow doesn’t close the road to Cliff Palace.  The Mesa Top Loop is open in winter.  The above photo is taken of Cliff Palace from the Mesa Top Loop overlook.

The other ranger-guided tour, offered new in 2015, is to Step House.  Step House is on Wetherill Mesa.  The road to this mesa is only open in summer.  It takes about a half hour to drive to this area from the main road turn-off near Far View Lodge.  Long House is accessible from the parking area at Wetherill Mesa, but you must hike or bike from there to this large and beautiful ruin site.  Wetherill Mesa is less frequently visited than the other areas of the park.  It is supposed to be open May 1.  This photo shows just a part of Long House.

The Chapin Hill Museum and Spruce Tree House are located close to each other.  These are both wonderful places to visit and are open year round.  Spruce Tree House is usually a self guided tour to the best-preserved site in the park.  You can go into a kiva in front of the dwelling.  (The kiva is not as good as the one at Kelly Place, but you should climb down into it anyway—for comparison.)  The museum offers information, lots of exhibits of artifacts found on the grounds, and a gift/bookstore.

The Mesa Top Loop is a drive to several sites, with parking spaces so you can get out and explore.  Some of the sites are set up to demonstrate different kinds of domiciles used at different times by the Ancestral Puebloans*.  There are overlooks which give views of canyon dwellings that you cannot get to without rock climbing (if you were permitted to—which you aren’t!).  Sun Temple is an enigmatic building which you can stop at and view along this drive. 

One site which is often overlooked and is one of my favorite is the Far View Ruins.  Upon driving into Mesa Verde, there is no sign to turn into it because they don’t want you to make a left turn right there.  When you are driving out, you may be too tired (ruined…) to stop.  However, it is worth it, so you should leave some time.  There is a self-guided trail which doesn’t take too long to explore.

Kelly Place is 25 miles from the park entrance (30-40 min., depending on traffic).  From the park entrance, the drive to the museum and ruins on Chapin Mesa is 21 miles, but because of the climb up over the top of the Mesa (8,000 ft elevation), this takes about 45-60 minutes.  You will not want to drive this road fast, especially if you are a “flatlander”!

Besides the hike to Long House on Wetherill Mesa, there are a few other hiking trails, notably Petroglyph Trail.  This begins along the trail to Spruce Tree House and takes you to a beautiful wall of petroglyphs (rock art). 

As you explore Mesa Verde, be on the lookout for wildlife—wild horses, turkeys, as well as the ubiquitous rock squirrels.

The park is open every day.  The main road may be temporarily closed in winter if there is a lot of snow.  There are scenic overlooks, picnic areas, a campground, and places to buy food, drink and silly souvenirs.  You may not pick up “souvenirs” from the grounds.

The official website is:

* The Ancestral Puebloans is the current politically correct name for the people formerly known as the Anasazi or cliff-dwellers.  Anasazi is a Navajo word roughly translated as “ancient foreigner”.  Modern day Pueblo people have objected to this name.  Each Pueblo tribe has a different language and therefore a different name for their ancestors, so we are using English.  “Cliff-dweller” is not appropriate because these people had different types of dwellings prior to building into the cliffs.  You have to practice saying Ancestral Puebloan because it does not flow trippingly off the tongue.

Sunday, March 1, 2015


Nearly everyone will have a birthday this year, so this is appropriate for all except those youngsters born on Feb. 29, who age only a quarter as fast as the rest of us.  (I remember my grandmother’s sixteenth birthday!)

Birthday wishes are timely here at Kelly Place.  Kelly Place has been in business for 35 years!  McElmo Canyon Research Institute is celebrating 25 years of existence.  And our partner Elderhostel Inc., providing educational and economical vacation packages-- now called Road Scholar, is celebrating 40 years.  Kelly Place has been working with them from our beginning, 35 years ago. 

So enjoy your cake and candles this year.  We wish you all very many happy returns!