11.1 Native American Art

Native American Art
Native American Art
• Archeologists believe that the first visitors to North America were
groups of Asian hunters who crossed an ancient land bridge across
the Bering Strait.
• The began to arrive in what is now Alaska between 20,000 and
40,000 years ago.
• Gradually these people began to spread out to cover all parts of
North and South America.
• Some groups continued to live as hunters, whereas others settled
and grew crops.
• Artifacts found in these regions show that all of the groups created
art of some kind, which gives us insight into their cultures.
Arctic Region
• Covering the vast coastal area between northeast Siberia and
eastern Greenland, was the homeland of the Inuit, or
• Compared to a hunter or boat maker, artists played an a minor
role in the Inuit life until recent times.
• They fished and hunted along with other members of the
villages and turned to their art only when the opportunity
presented itself.
• Artists did not imitate or criticize each others work, and they
did not consider themselves as belonging to a special group.
• They took their art seriously, and were proud of their
Inuit Art
• The images created by the Inuit
artists reveal the importance
attached to the animals they
relied on for food: seals, walrus,
fish, whale, and caribou.
• Other animals such as fox, wolf,
and bear were represented in
their art.
• The human figure was depicted
in masks and dolls they created.
Ivory Engraving
• Figures were also found on engravings
done on walrus ivory.
• In these engravings artists used a kind of
pictorial writing that described various
activities and events associated with
• To accent the engraved lines used in works
likes this, artists filled them in with color
or darkened them with soot.
• Usually have to do with the quest for food.
Inuit Masks
• Frequently Inuit art was created to serve the
religious needs of the people.
• This was the case of a masked carved to
represent a moon goddess.
• An Inuit shaman, or leader believed to have
healing powers, wore such a mask during
ceremonial dances.
• While dancing the shaman would go in to a
trance and act as a messenger between the
world of the living and the spirit world.
• What other cultures is a person that
communicates with the gods considered an
important part of society.
Northwest Coast
• The vast North American territories below the arctic can be
divided into a number of different regions.
• These regions are determined by similarities in culture and
language of the Native Americans who originally inhabited
the land.
• They depended on fish for food, forests provided timber for
boats and houses, plants from the forest also offered food.
• The prosperity and leisure that resulted from the abundant
food supply contributed to the rise of elaborate rituals and
ceremonies designed to celebrate and demonstrate rank and
Secret Societies of
the Kwakiutl
• The Kwakiutl, one of the Native-American groups inhabiting the
Northwest Region, identified people of differing rank and wealth
according to their affliction with one of several secret societies.
• The most distinguished of these societies was for shamans only.
• Within this society, the most important members formed a
subgroup known as the Hamatsa.
• Likes other societies, rituals were held to initiate new members,
reinforce the status of old members, and demonstrate to
nonmembers the extent of their magical powers.
• These rituals were performed by other members wearing fantastic
costumes and masks.
Secret Society Mask
• This Hamasta mask is composed of
several movable hinged pieces.
• Movement was meant to add
surprise and drama to the ritual.
• Each of the several breaks in the
mask could be manipulated to open
and close enhancing its threatening
• The eye areas are painted white to
reflect the light from a ceremonial
The Power of Ritual
• Hamasta rituals were carefully staged for dramatic impact.
• Subdued lighting permitted the use of elaborate props to add
mystery and suspense.
• After a Hamasta ceremony, to celebrate some other important
event, members of a tribe often celebrated with a potlatch, an
elaborate ceremonial feast.
• This was a clan event, enabling the members of one clan to honor
those of another while adding to their own prestige.
• At a potlatch, the host clan was able to exhibit its wealth and
confirm its status by offering enormous quantities of food and
valuable gifts.
Totem Poles
• Totem poles – tall posts carved and painted
with a series of animal symbols associated
with a particular family or clan.
• Found in the Northwestern region.
• They can be thought of as similar to a
European family’s coat of arms.
• These poles were erected in front of a
dwelling as means of identification and a
sign of prestige.
• May have taken a team of artists over a year
to complete one totem pole.
• Can reach up to 80 feet high.
The Design of Totem
• Each totem pole has a complex design.
• Every part of the pole holds interest for the
viewer. Thus the viewers eye is constantly
engaged as it sweeps upward from one animal
to another
• Even more complex are totem poles that are
completely painted, often with contrasting
• The more symbols on the totem pole the more
prestigious the family is in that community
Southwest Region
• Another cultural region
extends from the northern
area of Mexico to the
southern foothills of the
Rocky Mountains.
• Though many Native
American groups lived in this
territory, it is most often
associated with the Pueblo
The Pueblo
• Early Spanish explorers used the
word Pueblo, meaning village, to
identify groups of people living in
large, highly organized settlements.
• Ancient Pueblo dwellings were built
with walls made of adobe, or
sundried clay.
• One of the most important parts of
a pueblo was the kiva, a circular
underground structure.
Pueblo Dwellings
• Functional and well organized
• The rooms of the Pueblo were arranged
into several stories.
• Each story is set farther back then the last
to create terraces.
• The Kiva had a flat floor with one entry.
• A raised fire pit stood in the middle of the
kiva floor.
• The sipapu, a small hole in the kiva floor,
symbolized the place through which the
people originally emerged into this world.
Pueblo Pottery
• The Pueblo people were especially skillful in
creating painted pottery.
• Each community developed its own
distinctive shapes and painted designs.
• In the Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico, for
example, Pueblo potters used black outlines
and geometric shapes to create bold designs
over a cream colored base.
• Maria Martinez developed her own style of
pottery with her husband, known as
Maria Martinez Pottery
The Navajo
• Another southwestern tribe, the Navajo learned
the art of weaving from male Pueblo weavers.
• The Navajo weavers, who were women, began
making cloth with looms. As Spanish and
Mexican settlers moved into the Southwest,
they introduced new designs and patterns
which were quickly adapted.
• A woven saddle blanket shows qualities
associated with the finest Navajo weavings.
They include the closeness of the weave,
vibrant colors, and bold designs.
• This design is called an eye-dazzler, because it
created the illusion of motion with its bright
colors and repeated pattern.
Navajo Saddle Blanket
The Great Plains
• Our most familiar image of Native Americans comes
from the Great Plains.
• This area between the Mississippi River and the Rocky
Mountains stretches from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada.
• Because their lands were not generally suited for farming,
people living there became hunters.
• Continually on the move, these tribes followed the great
herds of bison that once covered the land.
• This movement from place to place made the production
of pottery, basket ware, or weaving impractical.
• Work in wood or stone was limited mainly to the
fashioning of bows and flint-tipped arrows for hunting,
which are called arrowheads.
Painted Animal Skins
• The different tribes of the Plains –
including Blackfeet, Crow,
Cheyenne, and Sioux-were highly
skilled in the preparation of skins
used for clothing, footwear, shields,
and various kinds of containers.
• There were painted or embroidered
with porcupine quills and later, glass
• The men of the tribe usually did the
• Events pictured on a robe often
illustrated the bravery of the person
wearing it, thought to protect the
wearer, and was highly prized.
Woodlands region
• Includes the area between the Mississippi
River and the Atlantic Coast, from the
Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.
• The geographic variety of this region
resulted in the formation of many
different cultures.
The Mound Builders
• In prehistoric times, small villages were
often clustered around monuments
constructed in the form of large
• Some took the form of high, narrow
ridges of earth that encircled large
• The purpose of these mounds remains a
subject of debate among archeologists.
Some think that they were built to
create an impressive setting for spiritual
Serpent Mound State Memorial
Adams County, Ohio
The Great Serpent
• The most impressive of the
mounds constructed.
• Formed to look like a huge
serpent in the act of uncoiling.
• The mound is about ¼ mile long.
• A great many works must have
been involved in its creation.
• This kind of project suggests both
organization and leadership.
The Iroquois
• One of the largest tribes living in the northeast
are of the woodlands region was the Iroquois.
• Expert wood carvers, they created masks that
were usually painted and decorated with horse
• The best known were created for a society of
healers known as the False Faces because of
the masks that they wore.
• These sacred masks represented the spirits who
gave healers the power they needed to treat
• Because they were so powerful the masks were
hidden when they were not being used.
Vocab & Quiz Review
• Inuit – Eskimos
• adobe- sundried clay
• kiva, a circular underground structure
• Potlatch – a elaborate ceremonial feast.
• Totem poles – tall posts carved and painted with a series of animal
symbols associated with a particular family or clan.
• Sipapu – a small hole in the kiva floor which symbolizes the place where
people originally emerge into this world.
• Know characteristics of each region and what Native American tribes
live in each.