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Native American Heritage

Works by Wendy Red Star

a woman and her child sitting on a couch with their chins in their hands
a woman sitting on the floor with the backdrop containing a field, flowers and a horse
a woman sitting on the ground with the backdrop of a mountain range and lake
a woman sitting on the ground with a snowy woodland backdrop
a woman sitting on the ground with the backdrop of a mountain range, a lake and animals
a woman and her daughter sitting on a couch in traditional clothing

Works by George Catlin

Background Information

Native American Art

There is a big difference in what the Europeans and the American Indians believe art means. In many Native American languages there is no word for "art" or "artist" because it is not a major way of life. To describe a beautiful art work, it was necessary to rely upon such terms as “well-done,” “effective,” or perhaps “powerful” (in the magical sense). If artists did exist they were there to create religious and memorial art for the elite. 

Origins

Many Indian art objects are intended to perform a service, such as to act as a container or to provide a means of worship. Political and military societies use art in the forms of weaponry, regalia, and panoply. This is seen in the Plains, Aztec, and Inca civilizations, all of which reflect the dominant warrior culture in their arts. Generally, but not necessarily, the best of Indian artwork was applied to those objects intended to please a deity, soothe the angry gods, placate or frighten the evil spirits, and honor the newly born or recently deceased. Through such means, Native Americans sought to control the environment and the human or supernatural beings that surrounded or threatened them.

Materials

Native American cultures produced art that reflected their environment. The people of the forested regions became sculptors in wood; those who had access to clay became potters; and those living in the grasslands became fine basket weavers. All naturally medium was explored and used such as jade, turquoise, shell, metals, stone, milkweed fibre, birch bark, porcupine quills, deer hair, llama dung, sea lion whiskers.

Styles of art varied among regions. To learn more visit the Encyclopedia Britannica's page on Native American Art 

 

Art Work by Region

Arctic Region

Baleen basket with whale tooth finial, by George Omnik

Arctic Region

Yup'ik mask; from Alaska; Musée du quai Branly

Arctic Region

Toy Angakkuq (shaman); 6 February 1998; serpentine, caribou bone & feathers; by Palaya Qiatsuq

Subarctic Region

21st-century Athabaskan moosehair tufting on beaded hide box,
Fairbanks, Alaska

Subarctic Region

Tsuu T'ina painted hide tipi,
Alberta, Canada

Subarctic Region

Man's hide jacket. The floral designs' stems feature "thorny" beadwork, typical of the Subarctic, Museum of Anthropology at UBC

Northwest Coast Region

A totem pole in Ketchikan, Alaska, in the Tlingit style

Northwest Coast Region

'Namgis thunderbird transformation mask, 19th century, cedar, pigments, leather, nails, metal plate, 71 in. wide when open, Brooklyn Museum, NY

Northwest Coast Region

Haida argillite carving; 1850–1900; from Haida Gwaii; National Museum of the American Indian

Northwest Coast Region

Cedar bark hat; Nuu-chah-nulth; Museum of the Americas (Madrid, Spain)

Northeastern Woodlands Region

Carved soapstone pipe depicting a raven, Hopewell tradition

Northeastern Woodlands Region

Copper falcon from the Mound City Group site of the Hopewell culture

Southeastern Woodlands Region

Clay cooking utensils, Poverty Point

Southeastern Woodlands Region

Engraved shell gorget, Spiro Mounds (Mississippian culture)

Southeastern Woodlands Region

Engraved stone palette, Moundville Site, back used for mixing paint (Mississippian culture)

Southeastern Woodlands Region

Stone effigies, Etowah Site (Mississippian culture)

Southeastern Woodlands Region

Ceramic underwater panther jug, Rose Mound (Mississippian culture)

The West - Great Plains Region

Sioux dress with fully beaded yoke.

The West - Great Plains Region

Sioux beaded and painted rawhide parfleches

The West - Great Plains Region

Ledger drawing of Haokah (c. 1880) by Black Hawk (Lakota)

The West - Great Plains Region

Kiowa ledger art, possibly of the 1874 Buffalo Wallow battle, Red River War.

The West - Great Basin and Plateau Region

Nez Perce bag with contour beadwork, c. 1850-60

The West - Great Basin and Plateau Region

Nez Perce man's beaded and quilled buckskin shirt with eagle feathers and ermine pelts, c. 1880-85

The West - Great Basin and Plateau Region

Shoshone beaded men's moccasins, circa 1900, Wyoming

The West - Great Basin and Plateau Region

Basket by Carrie Bethel (Mono Lake Paiute), California, 30" diam., c. 1931-35

The West - California Region

Chumash rock art at Painted Cave

The West - California Region

A basket made by the Pomo people of northern California.

The West - California Region

Late 19th-century Hupa woman's cap, bear grass and conifer root, Stanford University

Southwest Region

Montezuma Castle, a Sinagua cliff dwelling in Arizona, c. 700 CE–1425 CE

Southwest Region

Ancestral Pueblo canteen, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, c. 700 CE–1100 CE

Southwest Region

Navajo Sandpainting

More Sources for Native American Art

Mitchell’s On-going Exhibit

Our on-going “Regional Tour of American Indian Cultures” exhibit takes visitors on a tour through the major regions of the US and Canada and highlights the art and material culture of the tribes who lived there. Many of the objects you’ll see were collected by John and Betty Seabury Mitchell. This couple shared their passion for Native American art and culture with Evanstonians both old and young. In that spirit, the exhibit strives to provide a deeper understanding of Native American art, history, and cultures to all our visitors.

https://mitchellmuseum.org/regional-exhibit/

Native Art in Canada - An Elder's Stories About Ojibwa Art and Culture

Canadian native art...especially contemporary Ojibwa art...is sourced by a deep well of native legends and myths and it's become one of the last connections between the spiritual interpretation of a declining Ojibwa culture and the modern world.

I want to tell you about the Ojibwa people...as they were when I was a child and as they are now...and the thread that I'll draw through many of my stories will be Canadian native art.

http://www.native-art-in-canada.com/woodlandart.html

Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian

About the Museum
A diverse and multifaceted cultural and educational enterprise, the National Museum of the American Indian is an active and visible component of the Smithsonian Institution, the world's largest museum complex. The museum cares for one of the world's most expansive collections of Native artifacts, including objects, photographs, archives, and media covering the entire Western Hemisphere, from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego.

https://artsandculture.google.com/partner/national-museum-of-the-american-indian

Morning Star - Gambeh Then’

Alex Janvier’s masterpiece Morning Star, painted in 1993, adorns the dome of the Haida Gwaii Salon in the Museum. The mural rises seven stories above the salon and covers 418 m2. Janvier completed the work in just over three months, with the help of his son Dean. Morning Star illustrates the history of the land we live in from the artist’s Dene Suline perspective and expresses hope of mutual respect.

https://www.historymuseum.ca/morningstar/accessible-version/

National Archives - Native American Heritage Month

This set contains photos and documents from the National Archives that relate to Native American Heritage Month in November.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/usnationalarchives/sets/

72157627760221197/with/3814162953/