Native American Indian Art Facts

Updated April 17, 2017

Native American Indian art represents a deep connection between tribal existence and the outside world. Observations of Native American art offer insight on the culture and beliefs of the tribes and artists who created the piece. Most Native American Indian art includes spiritual meanings conveyed through symbolism and purpose. Native American Indian art transformed through the years and evolved from intratribal functionality to an external source of income. Modern copycat artists with no true affiliation to the Native Americans risk legal consequences for misrepresentation of authentic Native American Indian art.


Native American Indian art features characteristics of the culture and life of the various tribes across the country. Many pieces include a spiritual element, which demonstrate an important belief of the culture. For example, feathers have a significant spiritual meaning to Native American Indian tribes, according to Avia Venefica of What's Your

Another component of Native American Indian art involves nature. Most Native American art contains some element of the natural world, such as water, air, earth or animals. Native Americans value the spiritual connection to the earth and convey this through artistic expression. For example, the eagle or thunderbird decorates many Native American artworks.


Native American Indians produce many types of art and crafts, including beadwork, baskets and jewellery. Beadwork art produces patterns and images on a variety of materials, including leather clothing, shoes and hairpieces. Original Native American beadwork contained beads made of items found in nature such as bone and shell, according to information published by Native Languages. Native American Indian baskets display intricately woven colourful designs made from natural materials, such as grass or wood. Native American Indian jewellery historically contains turquoise and silver, according to Cameron Trading Post.


Native American Indian art serves numerous purposes, according to the National Museum of the American Indian. Visually appealing pieces such as paintings of Native American scenes gained popularity as outsiders increased interest in the culture. Artists create ceremonial clothing and accessories with a distinct function in mind, such as a headdress or war shirt. Native American Indian arts and crafts include everyday items such as pottery, which contain decorative accents hand painted by the tribe.


Early Native American Indian arts and crafts served a purpose within the tribe. For example, chiefs wore elaborate costumes made of leather, paint, feathers and beads during religious ceremonies. The Native American Indian art of today provides a very different purpose. An outside interest in Native American art transformed it from meaningful pieces to decorative representations of the culture, such as dream catchers. This source of income for Native Americans supports the tribes and allows outsiders a view into the world of Native American Indian art.


The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 ensures all Native American tribes receive proper credit. The artist of a piece labelled as an authentic Native American creation risks legal prosecution if the claim is false. The law permits fines of up to £650,000 and prison time for artists attempting to increase sales by claiming association with Native Americans.

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About the Author

Rebecca DeLuccia-Reinstein has been a freelance writer since 2004. She is a native New Yorker based in Pennsylvania. Her writing includes books, manuals, training guides and articles published as a ghostwriter and she has covered topics such as education, sales, art and psychology. She received a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the State University of New York at Albany.