Native American Tattoos

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Different American tribes are known by their specific Native American tattoos with individual native tribes opting to use both facial and body tattoos for their own distinct reasons. Some tribes used tattoos for identification purposes, some as a symbol of praise and honor, some cultures believed in their magical powers and yet others considered a tattoo their greencard / permit to the other life beyond death.

The Cherokee tribe used a rattlesnake tattoo to indicate their lineage. Animal tattoos were considered the secret to ones power. Eagle-eye tattoos were believed to endow the human wearer with the eyesight of the hunter-bird. The Lakota Indians believed that only tattoos would enable them enjoy an afterlife. Many tribes even wore tattoos to commemorate their conquest or victory. 

Etching a tattoo design is nothing less than an art form and it requires unparalleled dexterity. Not everyone can engage in creating tattoos. Way back in the past, Native American clans had extremely skillful members who would slowly carve exquisite tattoo designs and motifs into the flesh. These artists used objects like fish or turtle bones as needles to create the designs; at times, they would even use pointed rocks. The wound thus formed was then stained with natural dyes.

With the growing importance of tribal art, tattoos are once again a great rage among the present generation North Americans, and that irrespective of their descent. Indians are getting tattoos to associate themselves with their ancestral roots and non-Indians see it as mark of respect for an age-old culture. The number of young men and women who get a tattoo more as a fashion-statement than anything else is not less either.

The present picture, however, is a little different. Modern tattoo-artists, even the Native American artists are exploring newer concepts. A lot of experimentation is going on and with other areas of Native American culture. Beside the conventional Native American tattoos of butterflies, dream catchers, feather designs, instruments, mythical creatures, etc. Indian scripts/lettering, words from the Native American languages, different traditional motifs and symbols, even seals and flags and other interesting Native themes are becoming popular subjects of Native American Tattoos.

Joseph Paige 2006

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