Authentic Indian Designs

Authentic Indian Designs

by Maria Naylor (Editor)


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This vast Pictorial Archive collection offers you the beauty and vigor of 2,500 authentic Indian designs that come from all over the United States, including Alaska and the Canadian Pacific Coast. Dating from prehistoric times (c. 1000 B.C.) to the end of the nineteenth century, these designs have been selected from illustrations in the first 44 Annual Reports of the prestigious Bureau of American Ethnology, a branch of the Smithsonian Institution, by American and Indian art expert Maria Naylor.
The illustrations show designs and objects of innumerable kinds, including decorated vases and bottles; bowls, bottles, and pipes in the shape of birds, animals, and human heads; pottery vessels and their scrolled and fretted designs, including much Pueblo pottery with spiral, bird, animal, and other designs; shell gorgets with conventionalized rattlesnake designs; winger human figures and equal-arm cross designs on plates made by the Mound Builders; geometric and floral patterns on beadwork; pictographs of the battle of the Little Bighorn and other scenes; symbolic tipi decorations; masks depicting shamans such as the killer whale, wolf, raven, etc., dancing masks with human faces, ceremonial masks with half-human, half-animal faces, and incredibly elaborate Zuñi masks with their abstract designs; baskets and their conventionalized designs composed of stripes, chevrons, geometric figures, zigzags and so on; amazing Hopi katcina figures; legendary Zuñi and Navaho sand paintings with their pictograph-like figures; and much more. Each illustration or group of illustrations on one page has a caption containing information condensed from the Reports such as date and use of objects, tribe, region, etc.
To make consideration of these illustrations easier, they have been divided into five categories: Prehistoric Art of the Eastern Woodlands; The Eastern Woodlands in the Historic Period; The Plains Area; The Northwest Coast, Alaska and the Arctic Regions; and The Southwest. If you are a commercial artist or illustrator who has been looking for authentic Indian designs, you are sure to find all that you need in this splendid collection. Anyone interested in the art of the North American Indian will find this collection to be an indispensable, comprehensive sourcebook.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486231709
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 06/01/1975
Series: Dover Pictorial Archive Series
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 1,244,388
Product dimensions: 8.25(w) x 11.00(h) x (d)

Read an Excerpt




Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1975 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-14021-6


At the time of the discovery of the New World and the first encounters between Europeans and the Indian tribes of North America, the white man's curiosity about his world, its wonders and its inhabitants was both wide-ranging and intense. Reports from early explorers about the way of life of the inhabitants of the newly discovered lands generally included some descriptions of such arts and crafts as were then practiced by the people described, but while the Renaissance spirit of inquiry dictated that note be made of such manufactures, the same spirit worked against their being regarded as art. Although Albrecht Dürer said that the treasures from the court of Montezuma which he saw at Brussels in 1521 seemed more wondrous than the things spoken of in fairy tales, to the Hapsburg emperor and his creditors they were so much coinage-fodder. Until quite late in the Colonial period, explorers hoped to find great caches of treasure on the North American continent, treasures to rival those of Mexico and Peru; those who were slightly less visionary wanted land and furs. Throughout the Colonial period, destruction of those crafts extant when the white man came was part and parcel of the destruction of the Indian way of life as a whole. Native manufactures were quickly replaced by mass-produced trade goods, though some articles of Indian manufacture might be purchased from tribes that survived, if they were obviously utilitarian, like baskets, or superior to white products, like some kinds of tanned leather. Sometimes skills introduced by Europeans replaced native traditions, such as the floral embroidery patterns taught in French Canadian convents to Indian students, and later introduced into beadwork decoration. Any particular art, no matter how lengthy its tradition, could be lost quickly when the tribe decided to substitute trade goods for the native articles; or the make and decoration might be radically changed to capture a white market, and traditional methods again forgotten.

The beginning of interest in Indian art as art began at about the time that intelligent men in the more settled civilized portions of North America began to realize that it was quite possible that within a short span of years the Indians, their arts and their way of life altogether, might vanish. Among the few Americans or Europeans appalled at the thought were a number of artists or wealthy amateur sportsmen and scientists who made haste to visit the tribes that remained to any extent in a wild state. The most important of these was George Catlin, who brought back not only paintings, but actual artifacts and authentic Indians, with whom he formed an exhibition that traveled in the Eastern states and abroad. His published works, illustrated from his drawings, his portfolios of prints, and his collection of portraits (now in the Smithsonian) made the dress, weapons and decorations of the Plains tribes known to many, as did the published travels of Prince Maximilian of Weid-Neuweid, illustrated with fine aquatints after Karl Bodmer. The practice of collecting costumes, weapons, robes and other articles of Indian manufacture for studio props and detail study continued among later generations of artists who painted the West, down to Frederic Remington and the artists of the twentieth century, many of whom valued their collections highly for aesthetic as well as scientific reasons. About the middle of the nineteenth century a great deal of attention began to be focused on the various burial and temple mounds of the Ohio and Mississippi, especially after it became clear to those scholars who were not hopelessly ensnared by theories of colonizing Phoenicians, wandering tribes of Israelites and other less likely groups, that these impressive structures and their often surprisingly rich contents should be attributed to the direct ancestors of tribes in the area. The earliest reports of the Bureau of Ethnology contained a number of learned papers on the Mound Builders and their remains, all firmly declaring the mounds to be of Indian origin. The writings of Henry Schoolcraft inspired the Indian epic Hiawatha by Longfellow, and the ten years of intensive warfare among the Plains tribes, especially the western Sioux, following the Civil War drew the attention of much of Europe as well as the eastern States to the embattled tribes. The Bureau of Ethnology was founded in 1879, just three years after the Battle of the Little Bighorn. It began its task of collecting artifacts, recording traditions and making a scholarly study of a way of life just on the point of vanishing. Of the many monographs and papers published throughout the more than forty years that the Bureau issued an annual report, many are still considered classics or even "the bible" of their field. There is possibly no way of estimating how much of our knowledge and understanding of the artistic traditions of American Indian life, to say nothing of the preservation of countless works of art, we owe to the work of the Bureau and the scholars who worked for it or contributed to its publications. It is from their papers in the Bureau Reports that all the illustrations in the present book have been selected.

The arrangement of the book is very simple: the first section is devoted to the largely prehistoric art of the eastern United States, concentrating on the arts of the cultures that arose in the great river networks of the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys. Thereafter the sections are arranged geographically: The Eastern Woodlands, centering on the Great Lakes area; the Plains; The Pacific Northwest, Eskimo art of both Alaska and the Canadian interior, and British Columbia; and lastly the Southwest, both ancient and modern. The works illustrated were made of many materials, from woven wools and beaded buckskin to basketry, pottery and carved stone. Of particular interest are numerous forms of masks from two areas, the Northwest Coast and the Southwest. In many cases, the objects illustrated were collected from the original owners or even makers, and the designs thus are not only of irreproachable authenticity, but in many cases antedate the period of white influence. At any rate, they were not made for "souvenirs" or trade, but for actual use. Most of the objects shown on the following pages were in the final analysis utilitarian—they were weapons, or utensils or clothing, or were intended to be employed in some ceremonial or ritual, or to serve some totemic purpose. Few tribes produced anything specifically and separately as a work of art or for purely aesthetic reasons. (One exception might be various Eskimo carvings, made apparently for pleasure, though not for creating "art.") On the other hand, the love of color and ornamentation ran throughout Indian life, and wherever and whenever the material level of culture or the amount of leisure time permitted, objects made for use were decorated. Any tribe that produced some particularly finely made or decorated ware had a ready trade with less proficient neighbors. Perhaps it was the ultimately utilitarian purpose of many crafts that led to the loss of some arts, such as pottery and basketry, among tribes who began to acquire metal trade pots from the whites. The new utensils served the purpose as well, and left the craftsmen free of all the labor that went into not only the manufacture of the objects, but the gathering and preparation of raw materials as well. The aesthetic interest, always secondary, would be shifted elsewhere, not simply lost or allowed to die.

There has been a definite tendency to draw a sharp line between the work of tribes before continuous or prolonged contact with white culture, and that following it; only the former, or at any rate, only work made exclusively in the earlier tradition, is accepted as genuinely Indian. A work that shows European influences or employs trade materials to a great extent is classed as decadent. The quality of much Indian work declined after contact with white civilization because their whole life, their whole social and economic system, was being disrupted, not because innovations or new materials were in themselves harmful to Indian design. The Indians had been accustomed to borrowing designs and techniques from one another, and often changes in a style of decoration just as drastic and complete as any caused by the impact of the white man's goods can be detected in earlier cultures, as in the Southwest or among the Mound Builders. In particular, the Indians loved bright colors and startling contrast. Most scholars of Indian arts writing for the Bureau of Ethnology or contemporary with it unanimously deplore the use of aniline dyes in weaving, basketry and pottery, which was introduced about the close of the nineteenth century. Similar cries of anguish, it should be noted, were made about the use of aniline colors in needlework by late-Victorian ladies.

Finally, many of the designs given in this volume have a symbolic meaning, and where this could be determined with any degree of sureness, it has been given; many meanings had been lost or distorted, however, by the time the Bureau was making its studies. At times, Indians of the same tribe could not agree over the meaning of various symbols; the same design might have many interpretations, and one idea might be represented by a number of symbols. Color itself was frequently symbolic, but the symbolism varied, quite naturally, from tribe to tribe.

Many symbols were related to personal "medicine," and were often closely guarded secrets; since these often referred to individual happenings, such as dreams or visions, the interpretation of the "owner" of the design was sometimes necessary to comprehend its meaning.

All the identifications and explanations of objects in this book are based on the text of the original reports. Spellings of Indian terms have been regularized, with diacritical marks omitted. The names of tribes appear as they are given in The Indian Tribes of North America by John R. Swanton (Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 145, 1952).


Man came from the Old World to the New via the land bridge that stretched from Siberia to Alaska during the periods when glaciation reached its greatest extent. Not only did the immense glaciers lower the level of the seas between Asia and North America so that the land connection was exposed, but the actual path palaeolithic man most probably used escaped being covered by ice (perhaps because of low precipitation, since much of the surrounding ocean was already locked up in glaciers). These palaeo-Indians were not pioneers consciously seeking a new land, but hunters following herds of large game animals who crossed by the same path they used. When did they arrive? Perhaps forty thousand years ago; certainly more than twelve to thirteen thousand. Within these two limits lies ground for controversy.

The possessions they brought with them were slight: knowledge of how to hunt or trap large animals by cooperative efforts, by a stampede or surround, as well as with spears; a comparatively crude stone-age technology; knowledge of how to survive in arctic or subarctic conditions, a social organization suited to a nomadic life, and doubtless a few vague ideas and speculations about the universe and the supernatural. When the big game animals died out, the palaeo-Indians adapted themselves to new conditions, and developed various culture patterns suited to particular climates and geographical regions: in general, one for the desert regions of the western half of the continent, another for the wooded areas east of the Mississippi.

This new period is called by archaeologists the Archaic, and it is entirely postglacial. Life was based on hunting, fishing, shellfish gathering and plant collecting. This period is represented by a myriad of sites scattered throughout the eastern half of North America. Although local variations existed, depending upon what sources of food were available in the immediate neighborhood, there was a uniformity of principle behind the food-gathering techniques of all these peoples of the Archaic culture: an intensive harvesting of whatever foods happened to be seasonally in surplus or abundance, without overexploiting any one animal or vegetable source. About 1000 B.C. the Woodland Period began in the area of the Ohio and upper Mississippi Valleys, fanning out to reach as far north as Illinois and as far east as West Virginia, replacing or modifying the Archaic tradition. The Woodland tradition produced two dominant culture patterns, the earlier one named the Adena, and the later the Hopewell; the two evidently coexisted for a period, but the Hopewell lasted longer, until perhaps 750 A.D. The people of the Adena culture apparently did not practice agriculture, but their food-gathering methods were so efficient that they were able to develop a settled and large population, with several classes of society, including such specialized groups as priests and artisans. The Adena culture centered upon an area located in present-day southern Ohio, northern Kentucky and northwestern West Virginia. The nucleus of the Hopewell culture was situated in southern Ohio and Illinois, but Hopewell influences were felt as far away from this center as Minnesota, New York, Florida and Louisiana. The Hopewell culture, which did practice agriculture, intensified and elaborated the traits recognizable among the Adena peoples. They carried on a widespread trade in exotic materials, and made mortuary offerings of often astounding richness. The peoples of the Woodland tradition belong to that vague group of peoples designated as Mound Builders, as do the peoples of the tradition which succeeded them, the Mississippian, which began about 500 A.D. The mounds of the Woodland tradition were primarily for burials, although enormous earthworks were also built; through successive burials the mounds often reached a height of 70 feet. On the other hand, the mounds of the Mississippian culture were as a rule built surrounding a central plaza, and supported temples or palaces—a sort of civic center. The Mississippian developed in part from both the Archaic and Woodland heritages, but showed a number of significant innovations; intensification of maize agriculture and large permanent towns and villages, in addition to the platform mounds surrounding central spaces. The centers of the new culture were in the lower Mississippi Valley, but its influences are found all over much of the Eastern Woodlands area. Meso-American links and influences are evident in this culture, particularly in new pottery vessel forms and decorative techniques, but it is not quite evident by what route or by what means these influences arrived. Most probably it was not by a continuous geographic link, such as a trail through Texas and Louisiana. This Temple Mound period lasted from about 700 to about 1700; in some areas, patches of the culture survived into the period of European invasion and occupation. For the first time it is possible to connect the Indians of a prehistoric period with those of more recent times, since it has been determined that nearly all these Temple Mound people can most probably be grouped into the five historic language families Algonkian, Siouan, Iroquoian, Caddoan and Muskogean.

Much of our knowledge of the art of these early cultures is based on burial offerings placed in the mounds with the dead, and is of necessity of such material as can survive several centuries, or even millennia, of inhumation in various kinds of soil conditions; in a word, it is mostly ceramic. (Much pottery from the Gulf Coast and Florida has also been recovered from shell middens, but the same conditions apply.) Pottery and pottery remains are so much the archaeologists' staple that they furnish material for countless jokes as well as dating procedures. Nevertheless they are especially useful in locating vanished people and in defining their geographical limitations and migration patterns. Pottery is too fragile to travel well, so fragments remain in plenty on every occupation site, while the broken pieces themselves are virtually indestructible. While vessels are often abandoned because they are unsuitable for transport, new ones in exactly the same style will be made at the new home wherever proper raw materials are available. There are, of course, several disadvantages in relying too heavily upon pottery as evidence, especially when dealing with peoples like those of the Woodland and Mississippian traditions, about whom nothing is known from other sources. Parallelism can occur in pottery of peoples widely separated in time and space, but of a like grade of culture, provided they have access to similar types of clay. Interchanges by trade (although most pottery of this period was not suitable as trade items, for reasons given above), multiple occupation of sites at different periods by different peoples, adoption of pottery-making captives or refugees (doubtless a frequent occurrence, since women, the prime targets for capture, were also the pottery makers), the amalgamation of communities—all these factors can create difficulties in interpretation, especially where there are no independent means for checking attributions and correcting judgments. The same geographical area can be occupied simultaneously or successively by two groups of peoples. Then, too, while separate groups of people have produced nearly identical wares, portions of the same people have produced widely different types and grades of pottery.


Excerpted from AUTHENTIC INDIAN DESIGNS by MARIA NAYLOR. Copyright © 1975 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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