IntroductionNative American Indian Art is as diverse as the hundreds of tribes that inhabit America; each tribe having a unique culture and art forms. Evolving from simple cave drawings and carvings traditional American Indian art grew to include intricate art in such forms as jewelry, beadwork, weaving, pottery, basketry, paintings, dolls, carvings, masks, quillwork (embroidery), and totem poles. Throughout their history their art has reflected their culture, lifestyle, and environment. A short description of many of these art forms can be found in the list below; many of which will have links to more detailed information pages. These pages will include interesting facts like who in the tribe produced art, how the art was made, and where you can see examples of this amazing art. Many of the modern day tribes produce and offer for sale, some as a major source of tribal income, beautiful art and jewelry for men, women, and kids.
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Interesting Native American Indian Art Facts
- The oldest known art found in North America dates back to approximately 11,000 BC. A bone with the image of a mammoth carved in it was discovered in Florida.
- The type of art created by the various tribes was often influenced by the region they lived in and their lifestyles. For example nomadic tribes would not be able to carry with them large heavy items so there artwork would have to be light and easily transported.
- American Indian art often incorporates symbols and subjects involving nature; these include the sun, moon, and various animals such as bears and birds.
- There are many museums throughout the United States and the world where you can see Native American Indian Art artifacts; they include the Museum of the American Indian in New York City and the Museum of the American Indian in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Native American Indian Art Types
- Pottery (Ceramics) - As with a lot of Indian art pottery served both a functional and decorative purpose. Traditionally, pottery was used for storing such things as food, water, and valuables such as beads. The Indians also created pots for cooking. However, beyond its functional purposes pottery has been used for artistic expression and painted with beautiful designs and colors.
- Baskets - Baskets are one of the oldest art forms of American Indians; some have been discovered dating back nearly eight thousand years. The styles, weaving techniques, and materials vary greatly among the different tribes and American Indian regions.
- Masks - Masks were often used in tribal ceremonies and are some of the finest examples of Indian art. Examples are the kachina masks created by the Pueblo Indians. These wooden masks were used in their traditional ceremonies and regarded as living spirits.
- Totem Poles - Perhaps the most striking forms of Indian art are totem poles. These wooden sculptures were often huge some standing up to 40 feet high.
- Dolls - The most famous Native American dolls are the kachina dolls of the Hopi Indians. These dolls depict the spiritual beings the Hopi worshipped.
- Paintings - Indians have traditionally painted numerous items such as pottery, tipis, clothing, shields, and cave walls. The Navajo tribe's sand paintings, used in their religious ceremonies, is an excellent example of American Indian painting.
- Jewelry - Native American jewelry (also spelled jewellery) was worn as adornment and sometimes for protection. Materials used to create jewelry included turquoise, copper, silver, and stone. Jewelry types include necklaces and pendants. The different tribes had different customs in regards to who made and wore jewelry. For example in the Navajo tribe it was usually the men who made jewelry.
- Beadwork - Numerous American Indian tribes create beautiful beadwork, perhaps the best know are those of the Great Plains Indians. Native Americans originally, used natural materials for their beads such as shells, turquoise, wood, animal bones, animal horns, and silver. When Europeans started trading with the Indians glass beads became available.