A truly unusual, and unusually striking, pin, by a young Navajo jeweler, who was mentored by the late Michael Little Elk, a Lakota. That’s why the piece is decorated with Plains symbols. The darkened texture and accents of 14-karat gold are other hallmarks of the Little Elk style. Together with the dynamic silhouette, they make a visually fascinating pin.
Shaped like an arrow, or war club, the silver is in two layers, one laid over the other. Both are textured and darkened by oxidation. Gold feathers, an arrow, a rectangle and other accents, glitter brightly against the dark granular silver. At the head of the silver arrow, a gold hand is featured.
In the Plains culture, a warrior need not kill an enemy, but must touch him, or steal his horse, or weapons, and escape unhurt. After the battle, these exploits were counted. This was the highest honor a Plains warrior could achieve. Hands were often symbols for a “coup”, or daring act.
Counting coup was commemorated in various ways: notches on a special coup stick, adding a feather for each coup, painting a hand on the warrior’s horse, or some other prominent place, and even adding a bar for each coup to his clothing, among the Blackfoot. On this pin, the gleaming gold hand and the rectangle of bars on the other end, as well as the feathers, all are counting coup symbols.
A handsome and fascinating blend of two cultures – the artist’s and his mentor’s, the pin is expertly made. It is beautifully different, as well.