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Early Influence on Native American Art

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Early Influences That Changed Native American Art

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Navajo Native Americans design images in sand for an upcoming ceremony. Amazingly, all sandpaintings were destroyed following a ceremony.
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External influences have affected Native American traditions in four ways: technologically, economically, stylistically and structurally. 1) The creative traditions of Native Americans were in part defined by technical limitations, such as the virtual lack of metal (and, in particular, iron) tools, of the use of true rotary motion and of mechanized means of production. European contact provided access to these and other technologies, as well as to a variety of manufactured goods, such as glass beads, various kinds of textiles and commercial dyes, thereby offering new choices for the solutions to traditional creative goals.

2) Art in Native American tribes was limited by the strict division of labor between men and women. Native American societies differed in the principles regulating the division of labor and in the relative importance of markets in the distribution of crafts. In most tribes simple forms of a gender-based division of labor prevailed to the exclusion of full-time crafts specialization. There was long-distance trade, usually in prestige goods, and local trade, typically in useful products, but works were usually made primarily for personal, domestic or local use. This limited artistic development until early 1900.

3) Styles were greatly influenced by the Euro-American society, This had the most profound affect on Native American traditional arts, Trading Posts that sold tribal art would specify which designs would sell the White tourists and did not buy purely tribal motifs. The native artist would create art object for tribal uses such as ceremonial pottery and kachinas, and very different styles and techniques would be bartered to the Trading Posts to satisfy tourist tastes.

The result of these developments was generally not the replacement of older traditions by innovations. More typically, various traditions often exist side by side within the same tribal communities. Some works were created primarily for local use, others use new techniques and/or styles to answer the demands of new markets, while in yet other cases the ethnic identity of the artist may be the only ‘Native American’ element involved in their creation.

  • Southwestern Pueblos
  • February 11, 2011


Contributor: sammybutterfield220
Created: February 11, 2011 · Modified: February 11, 2011


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