Native American Paintings

native american art

“Art” is a term that can mean various things, depending on where you come from.  In many of the languages spoken by Native Americans, there is not even a word for artist or art. So how would we define Native American artists?

role of native american artists

Most of native life revolves around the perfection of various crafts for practical reasons such as pottery for food storage etc. 

individual art vs. tribal art

There was a remarkable amount of artistic freedom inside this strict framework of tradition.

american indian artwork

The origins of most Native American ornamental patterns are unknown today; the majority of them were lost in prehistory.

cultural function

Many American Indian art items are primarily designed to serve a function.

materials used

American Indian artists had investigated and perfected nearly every natural medium such as rare stones, shells, metal, fiber from Milkweed, and birch bark.


Shape, method, resources, and ornamental features all vary widely among baskets made by different ethnic groups or locations.

beadwork and quillwork

Porcupine quills were originally utilized by Plains and East Coast cultures to adorn a broad range of things, including clothes and basket weaving.


The pottery we see now is the result of a tradition that dates back over a thousand years.

native american sculpture

Aboriginal artists use a wide range of materials, such as stones, bones, and wood, depending on what’s readily available.

arctic region

Since the Dorset civilization, indigenous peoples in the Arctic have created artifacts that could be considered works of art.

northeastern woodlands

The Deptford culture’s ceramics (c. 2500 BCE–100 CE) provide the oldest evidence of an artistic tradition in the area.

southeastern woodlands

While the earliest wooden artifacts date back as far as 10,000 years, carved and painted wooden artifacts date back no further than 2,000 years.

great plains

Buffalo hide was embellished with porcupine quill needlework and beads, teeth of elk, and dentalium shells, which were highly valued resources.

plateau and great basin

Plateau bead workers are noted for their intricate equine ornamentation and contour-style beading.


Native Americans in California have a rich heritage of intricate basket weaving techniques.

southwest region

Athabaskan peoples moved from northern Canada to the southwest throughout the last millennium.


The most renowned artistic achievements of the Olmec are enormous basalt heads, which are thought to be portraits of kings constructed to demonstrate their tremendous authority.

notable american indian artists

Nampeyo  (1859 – 1942) Lucy M. Lewis  (1890 – 1992) Kananginak Pootoogook (1935 – 2010) Ernie Pepion  (1943 – 2005)

contemporary native american artists

George Longfish  (1942 – Present) Will Wilson  (1969 – Present) Frank Buffalo Hyde  (1974 – Present) Merrit Johnson  (1977 – Present) Nicholas Galanin  (1979 – Present)