Art is a word that means different things for different people across different cultures. In many languages of the Native Americans, there is not even a word such as ‘art’ or ‘artist.’ Defining Native American artwork can therefore be tricky. However, there appears to be a consensus that defines native American art as artworks created by the original native people of the Americas. Although the original inhabitants of these regions were not related to India, they were often referred to as Indians. Thus, their arts are also popularly known as American-Indian artwork.
Top Native American Artworks
Below are some types of artistry works created by the Native Americans, often notable for their artistic and aesthetic beauty:
American basketry is one of the best in the world. They include the beautifully crafted cooking baskets of the Yokuts, the exquisite baskets of the Aleut, the fabulous designs of the Haida, and many others. Whether coiled, twined, or plaited, their baskets were beautifully crafted with indigenous plant materials such as
willow, conifer roots, ferns, grasses, and yucca. These works of art often expressed the artistic abilities of the weavers and were useful in the gathering, processing, and cooking of food materials. They were also used as gift items during important occasions such as weddings, rituals, and other rites of passage.
Quillwork is an ancient form of artwork unique to the Native Americans. It involves decorating clothing items and jewelry with dyed porcupine quills. In ancient American culture, quillwork was not only used to communicate social stature visually, but it was also highly appreciated for its aesthetic values and beautiful designs. The quilled decoration on a war shirt would depict the warrior’s ranks and conquests. The art was particularly common in the upper Midwest and Great Plains due to the large porcupine population in the regions.
Beadwork remains one of the most common forms of artwork practiced by several American tribes. As a result of the labor-intensive nature of quillwork, it was mostly replaced in the 18th and 19th centuries by beadwork. Beadwork allowed painters to create a wider variety of designs using beads of various types and more flexibility.
It is believed that the oldest pottery made by Native Americans appeared about 4,800 years ago on Stalling Island, near Augusta, Georgia. The early Southwest’s Hohokam, Anasazi, Mimbres and Mogollon cultures were especially notable for their impressive pottery skills. Most of their potteries are hand-built, with either coil or slab techniques. Potteries made by Native American are still produced today in a manner similar to the techniques used by the aboriginal Americans. Today’s main sources of Indian American pottery include Pueblo pottery, Jemez, Hopi, Zia potteries, etc.
Sculpting is one of the most ancient art forms practiced by the Native Americans. Indigenous sculptors used a wide range of materials, such as stones, wood, and bones, depending on what was readily available. In terms of the subject matter, most sculptures were representations of the things the sculptors were familiar with: local wildlife and flora, human beings, and mythical figures.
Native American artworks remain relevant due to their traditional, aesthetic, and experimental purposes. It is also pleasing to know that contemporary Native American artists are finally getting their recognition.