Native Americans prized the beauty and color of the mineral turquoise and crafted it into jewelry, medicine stones and ornamentation. Turquoise is found in arid regions where water seeps through natural rock and interacts with copper deposits, so it was plentiful in portions of the Southwest inhabited by Indians. Native Americans found the green-blue mineral deposits in rock layers in cliffs and believed it had spiritual significance and cultural relevance.
The origins of turquoise stem from a Native American myth that credits the Indians for the initial formation of turquoise. The legend says that turquoise was created when Native Americans danced and celebrated the return of the rains after times of drought. Their tears of joy combined with the rain and permeated the ground, referred to as Mother Earth, and produced the beautiful blue-green stone. The Indians were fascinated to find the striking blue mineral deposit in the midst of gray rock and thought the colors resembled water and the sky.
Native Americans were the first to mine turquoise in arid regions throughout western portions of the U.S., specifically the Southwest. They used primitive stone mauls and antler picks to mine the mineral, even before European settlers discovered the beautiful rock formations, according to the American Indian Heritage Foundation. Due to the semi-hard and porous nature of turquoise, it was easy to craft into jewelry and ornamentation for clothing, weapons and household items. The small size of turquoise also made it easy to trade with other villagers.
Indians believed turquoise had spiritual powers, such as the ability to heal those who were mentally or physically sick. Due to its cool temperature and beautiful color, they saw the stone as a soothing remedy for illness. Tribal healers often included turquoise in their healing ceremonies and spiritual rituals. Natives thought the mineral symbolized life, so they carried turquoise stones in their sacred pouches or wore them around their necks in the form of beaded necklaces.
Safety and Protection
Native Americans believed that turquoise had the power to protect and safeguard those who entered battle or encountered dangerous situations. According to the American Indian Heritage Foundation, the Indians assumed that a crack in a piece of bodily worn turquoise meant that the turquoise had protected the wearer from the physical blow he would have otherwise received. Navajo Indians carry turquoise to ensure the fertility of their sheep and guarantee the success of their hunting ventures.