Native American Art History

Want to learn more about Native American art history? Read on to get an overview of the history of Native American art…

The Native American legacy of arts consists of many diverse and unique forms of art developed over hundreds of years. The Natives were extremely skilled people with a deep sense of spirituality which was reflected in their art work. Native American art history reveals the true nature and culture of the indigenous people of America.

Some of the most popular art forms practiced throughout the course of history are as follow:

Native American Jewelery

This is one Native American art form that has only grown in terms of popularity over the years. The natives were known to be extremely skilled at carving intricate designs that took inspiration from the nature around them. Native American jewelry was rich in symbolism and always had deeper innate meaning. Amongst the most used building materials by the Native Americans was turquoise, brown stone, opal, pink stone, onyx, silver and copper.


This particular art form is totally unique to the Native Americans. The art form developed alongside a prevailing tradition in the Ojibwe tribe. This unique item featured sinew strands tied like a web around a tear drop shaped frame. This was hung outside the house and was believed to protect the children from having bad dreams. The concept of dreamcatchers has popularized over time and you will find many people to be hanging similar items over their baby’s cradle in today’s times.


The natives did not experiment with this form of art until the advent of the colonial powers. It was only through the Spanish and the Europeans that the Natives got exposed to glass seed beads which they began importing in great quanitity. Soon enough the natives mastered the art of beadwork and were producing all kinds of amazing beadwork crafts.

The Plains Indians are particularly renowned for their amazing art work. Peyote stitch beading was one of the most unique and popular beadwork from this tribe. Wampum belts were another impressive creation of the eastern Indians whereas the west coast Indians developed the Dentalium. Floral beadwork originated from the Northern Indians whereas the highly decorative shell and turquoise heishi beadwork was developed by the Southwest Indians.


This is yet another ancient traditional Native American art form. Porcupine quilling in particular was a unique art form practiced by the East Coast and Plains Indians. The process of quilling required softening and then dying stiff porcupine quills and then weaving them on birchbark or leather. The finest examples of Native American quill work can be seen on War Shirts that were painstakingly created in more than one year. Other prominent quill work included the stitching of medicine bags, jewelry, moccasins, birchbark boxes and baskets. Quilling was a rather difficult task which is why it was considered to be very exclusive. However with the advent of beadwork the popularity of quill work rapidly declined.

The Native Americans have tried their hands at various other art forms through the course of their history. These include basketry, pottery, carvings, kachinas, masks, totem pols, drums, flutes, pipes and dolls.

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