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Native American Art

Like any indigenous people throughout the world, the Native Americans used art to illustrate their daily lives.

In the beginning, they would make drawings on cave walls, and boulders. These pictures are proof that they hunted and fished for food.

Three Native American Women In Warm Springs Indian Reservation Wasco County Oregon 1902

As time went on, the drawings became more elaborate and included colors made from natural plant dyes, like berries and plant roots.

Expressing their Beliefs

As the different groups became a tribe, the people of that tribe began to express their beliefs as well as their daily tasks.

Every tribe had their own beliefs but one thing was common to all tribes: that was they believed in a higher spirit that guided them through life.

They watched the sun, the moons, and the stars and they noticed the weather and the changing seasons. They made up stories to explain what they saw happening around them.

Sait John Neumann Catholic Church Sunbury Ohio Interior Statue Of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha

Headdresses

The chief of the tribe was the head man. He was the person who made decisions for the tribe, such as where they hunted, where they lived, how the people of the tribe worshipped the spirits.

His head-dress was the most elaborate. It featured animal fur, feathers, and beading. Other men wore headdresses too, but none as large or as beautiful.

Tecumseh Shawnee Leader Of Tecumsehs War

Decorations

Each tribe developed ways to build shelters according to what materials were available to them, such as teepees, caves, adobe homes, etc.

They began to decorate the things they used every day with drawings and symbols. They drew markings on their woven pots or clay cooking pots, clothing and leather hides.

Taylor Collection Navajo Eng Hastings 1900

They learned how to weave blankets and rugs and made intricate patterns in the woven threads. Some tribes made headdresses and used feathers and leather.

After the Europeans arrived, the tribes were given gifts of beads and other items in exchange for furs. The tribes used the colored beads as decorations.

Ball Players From The Choctaw And Lakota Tribe

Carvings and Dances

Some tribes carved face masks from wood and colored it with different vegetable dyes. Each mask depicted a special spirit.

When put on, the wearer believed he was the spirit and able to communicate with the members of the tribe.

The men would dress up in their finest tunics, leggings, and moccasins and give thanks to the spirits and told stories of the spirits in their dances.

Young Girls Fancy Shawl Dancing At Spokane Powwow

Boats and Totem Poles

Different tribes made different boats; some made canoes out of birch bark, some carved boats out of logs.

Besides carving masks, some tribes carved faces into cedar tree trunks called totems with each face on the totem depicted a spirit.

Boats And Totem Poles

Quiz!

  1. What did cave and rock paintings tell us about the indigenous people’s lives?
  2. Describe a chief’s headdress.
  3. Did the tribes always use beads to decorate their clothing?
  4. What were the masks and dances designed to show?
  5. What was similar in all the different tribes’ beliefs?

Painted Cave Santa Barbara County California

ANSWERS

  1. The cave and rock paintings told how the indigenous people lived.
  2. A chief’s headdress was very elaborate decorated with beads, feathers and animal fur.
  3. Each tribe had their own designs and beads were added only after the Europeans gave them in exchange for furs.
  4. The masks were carvings of the different spirits the people believed in and the dances told the stories of the spirits.
  5. All the indigenous peoples in the world all believe in a higher spirit that guided their life.

Native Americans

Whale Transformation Mask By Matthew Bisanz

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