Northwest Native American Art

The native peoples were originally spread throughout the nation, inhabiting different regions with different natural environments and resources, so it is not surprising, then, that northwest Native American art would differ from the art that arose from indigenous people of the plains or other regions of the country. Differing raw materials inspired the creation of different types of artistic expressions.

The totem pole, one of the more well known northwest Native American art expressions is a perfect example of this. It was not a part of the traditional arts of the plains peoples, as they did not have the great number of trees available to them that the northwestern tribes did. However, the plains peoples had grasses, and became skilled at the arts that made use of that resource, such as basket weaving. With the great forests in their region, northwest Native American art could include wooden creations, such as totem poles.

Naturally, there’s a great deal more to northwest Native American art than totem poles, and like art everywhere, it often reflects the particular culture and traditions of its region. The use of particular colors and shapes is one way in which northwest Native American arts stands out from the Native American art of other regions, with strong colors such as black and red being favored.

Other mediums of expression besides those created of the plentiful wood of the northwestern region, such as totem poles, ceremonials masks, and various vessels, include textiles, blankets and rugs, which would have been quite important to those living through the cold winters of the area, and various types of baskets. Northwest Native American art traditions had a definite influence over the design of these items, as well, and the textiles and basketry of this region would typically be readily distinguished from those of other areas.

The popularity of Northwestern Native American art extends far beyond the region and into every part of the nation. The distinctive designs and strong colors catch the eye, as well as the imagination, which places this regional indigenous art into a category all its own.

Joseph Paige 2006

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