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Native Americans


History >> Native Americans for Kids

Native Americans of the United States have many different kinds of art and ways they use to express themselves. Each tribe and nation has it's own unique culture and art. Their art is depicted in a number of ways including beading and decorating of clothes, masks, totem poles, paintings, drawings, weaving of blankets and rugs, carvings, and basket weaving.

Below are some historical examples of Native American art.

Native American shirt art
Nez Perce Shirt by Nez Perce

Here is a buckskin shirt decorated with beads, feathers, ermine fur, and locks of hair. It was likely worn by a powerful leader in an American Indian tribe. It was made by the Nez Perce tribe of the Pacific Northwest.

Drawing of Native American dancers
Dance by Black Hawk

This is a picture of Native American dancers drawn by Black Hawk, a medicine man for the Lakota Sioux tribe. He drew a number of pictures like this for William Edward Caton in order to get credit at Caton's store. Black Hawk got 50 cents per drawing.

Native American Basket
Ornate Basket by Carrie Bethel

This large ornate basket is 30 inches in diameter. It was made by the American Indian artist Carrie Bethel. She became famous for her baskets and won awards for her baskets at the Yosemite basket competition. She was a Mono-Paiute Indian from California. Originally basket weaving was important to Native Americans as a way to make sturdy receptacles for carrying and storing various items. Over time, the baskets became works of art as the weavers became more skillful using different dyes and patterns in their designs.

Navajo Blanket
Navajo Blanket by Unknown.

Some of the finest artwork by Native Americans are rugs and blankets woven by the Navajo tribes. This is a Navajo blanket woven in the late 1800s. Originally the Navajo made practical items such as saddle blankets, dresses, and cloaks. Later, their fame as weavers allowed them to make blankets and rugs to sell throughout the country. Their designs tend to have strong geometric patterns.

Navajo Sand Painting
Navajo Sand Painting by Edward S. Curtis

Sand painting is an art mostly used by the Navajo tribe. It is primarily used by the medicine man as part of a religious ceremony. Here is a Navajo sand painting which was used in the rites of the Mountain Chant.

Alaskan fish mask
Wooden Fish Mask by Unknown

Here is a wooden fish mask made by the Yupi'k people of Alaska. Masks are often used in rituals and religion and are a form of art. Often masks represent different animals. In some religious ceremonies, it is thought that the person wearing the mask would take on the spirit of the animal depicted on the mask.

Totem Pole
Totem Pole photo taken by Ryan Bushby

The totem pole is a form of art for many Native American tribes in the north and northwest. Totem poles are generally carved from cedar wood. The meaning of their carvings varies from tribe to tribe. Sometimes they are purely artistic, other times they tell stories of local legends or events. They are often carved for spiritual or religious reasons. The word totem comes from a Native American word meaning "kinship group".

Activities For more Native American history:

Culture and Overview
Agriculture and Food
Native American Art
American Indian homes and Dwellings
Homes: The Teepee, Longhouse, and Pueblo
Native American Clothing
Roles of Women and Men
Social Structure
Life as a Child
Mythology and Legends
Glossary and Terms

History and Events
Timeline of Native American History
King Philips War
French and Indian War
Battle of Little Bighorn
Trail of Tears
Wounded Knee Massacre
Indian Reservations
Civil Rights

Tribes and Regions
Apache Tribe
Cherokee Tribe
Cheyenne Tribe
Iroquois Indians
Navajo Nation
Nez Perce
Osage Nation
Sioux Nation

Famous Native Americans
Crazy Horse
Chief Joseph
Sitting Bull
Maria Tallchief
Jim Thorpe
Works Cited

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