Feathers, Frames, and Fun: Native American Art

Native American art varied just as much as the houses and clothing that that they utilized. But one thing that it had in common was its beauty! Art was often very colorful! Not only was it pretty to look at, but Native American art often served a purpose as well. Sometimes art would tell a story, sometimes it would help people feel better, and sometimes it served a very practical purpose. When you think of art, what do you think of? Maybe you think of paints and paper and famous artists! Well, Native American tribes on the Great Plains, like the Kiowa, Lakota, Shoshone, Blackfeet, Crow, Dakota, and Osage, used paint too! Often, they would paint on animal hides in very decorative ways in order to tell a story! If you have some paper, you can have mom or dad cut it into the shape of an animal hide, and you can paint your own story! What story do you think the painting below tells?

Tribes of the Pacific Northwest region had a very different style of art. One very distinctive art form of these tribes was called a totem pole. A totem pole was often symbolic creatures stacked upon one another, often representing people, stories, heritage, and events. These totem poles helped people to identify with one another, and determine which tribe or clan they were from. There were often animals, like wolves, eagles, bears, and salmon seen on these poles. Each pole reflected on the importance of a different tribe, and they were all different to help identify that group of people. Thanks to My Creative Life, you can create your own totem pole with just a paper towel tube! What best represents the family that you have?

Primarily seen among the Ojibwe and Lakota tribes, another art form that we still see today is something called a dream catcher. Have you ever had a bad dream? While this art also looks incredibly beautiful, it was believed that if a dream catcher was hung up the right way, it would catch and prevent all the bad dreams from happening. Thus, these beautiful dream catchers also became a symbol of protection and comfort to the tribes that utilized them. The Ojibwe word for a dream catcher also means spider, so it is thought that the tribe may have taken their inspiration from a spider’s web. Can you create something beautiful like these two tribes did? Well, if you have a paper plate, you can try! The instructions are located here!

Another form of art is music! and Native Americans produced beautiful music. Most Native American tribes used a sort of drum. A drum would create a steady beat that made dancing and singing easier. If you would like to hear the Siksika Pow Wow Drums, click through to watch the video! Or, if you would like to make your own hand drum, click here for the instructions! Another instrument that was common was a rattle. It was common because it could be easily made and decorated, and then it could easily be carried by those dancing and singing! If you would like to make your own, check out Art is Basic!

The last form of art that we are going to talk about was one that was more practical in everyday life, but just as beautiful! Weaving was a way that Native Americans could create baskets to carry things, organize their items, and have a place to store things! Basket weaving often took time and dedication, but the result was a beautiful and useful piece to add to their homes. If you have a plastic cup and some yarn, you can make a project based on this type of Native American artwork! The instructions can be found here!

Now that you know about the different kinds of artwork that Native Americans used, why don’t you grab mom or dad and create a snack based on the artwork of the Pacific Northwest! Do you remember which type of art was popular in the Pacific Northwest? If you said totem poles, you are correct! So grab a skewer, some fruit, a marshmallow, and some food coloring and you’re good to go! Use a toothpick to draw on the face of your totem pole on your marshmallow and you have the perfect treat to wrap up our lessons on Native Americans!

I hope you enjoyed our lessons on Native Americans! Be sure to come back tomorrow so we can start learning about Vikings!

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