On this page is a list of interesting facts about Native American Indian war paint; a fascinating aspect of Native American Indian culture. This information includes why it was worn, how war
paint was made and applied, and what materials were used to make the paint. This information is written for both kids and adults.
It was not just the war paint itself that held special meaning to warriors it was also sometimes the actual application of the paint. It was sometimes believed that supernatural powers
were derived during the application of the war paint that would made the warrior feel confident, invincible, and protected. The paint was often applied by a medicine man or by a holy
The preparation of the war paint was important to the Indians; often prayers were given while the paint was stirred as to bestow supernatural powers into it.
Traditional war paint was made from the natural materials that were available to the American Indians; this included clay, berries, plants, minerals, and tree bark. With the arrival of
European traders powdered paints became available to the Native Americans.
Most tribes wore war paint only when going into battle or for ceremonies however some Indians wore it more often. The Mohave wore paint daily adorning themselves in red, black, and
War paint was usually applied to the face and body with animal bones, sticks, grass, or simply with fingers.
Reasons Native American Indians Wore War Paint
Below is a list of many of the reasons Native Americans wore war paint. Not all tribes wore it for the same reason and at different times the paint would be worn for different reasons.
War paint was often believed to provide the wearer with supernatural powers including strength and protection. The symbols and colors of the paint would determine the types of powers
upon the wearer.
Often war paint was applied to a warrior to strike fear into the enemy.
The symbols and patterns of war paint sometimes were used to convey a message; for example it might convey victory or success.
The pattern and colors used for war paint were often selected to provide camouflage.
War paint sometimes had practical uses such as protecting the warrior's skin from the sun, insects, and the elements such as wind.
Sometimes war paint was simply worn as a decoration.
Examples of War Paint Symbols and Meanings
Below are some generalizations about some of the symbols and colors used in war paints. These generalizations do not apply to all tribes; symbols and colors often held different meanings
based on the particular tribe.
The color red, which was often associated with war, was perhaps the most common war paint color. This is where the reference to Native
American Indians as "Redskins" came from. Besides war red also was known to symbolize strength, success, and energy.
Various symbols were painted on warrior's faces and bodies such as circles, stripes, and triangles.
Many tribes painted a zig-zag line across their forehead representing lightning. This symbol was believed to provide the warrior with great power and speed.
Painted hand prints meant the warrior had fought with bravery and honor in hand-to-hand combat.
Black paint was often used to indicate a warrior was powerful and had proven his power in battle. This color also symbolize victory and warriors would sometimes apply this color after
Blue paint was often used to symbolize confidence.
Green paint was sometimes used to symbolize endurance.