Native American Beadwork

Among the many different crafts of the Native American women in many different tribes is the fine craft of Native American beadwork. Many of the beads that were used in much of the traditional Native American beadwork were beads that had been carved out of different animal horns, turtle shells, and even deer hooves.

Some other popular choices of beads were animals’ teeth and claws that would be hollowed out and strung. Native American bead necklaces were sometimes made from the claws of bears and wolves and this was symbolic of a great hunter. Wooden beads, sometimes dyed, were carved and drilled. Hard seeds were steamed to soften them for awl piercing and stringing. Small animal bones were polished and shaped into tapered cylinders for neck. Native American beadwork was strung together was by animal sinew, which they would usually get from an animal legs. Animal sinew had many other uses in Native American society as well since it is a very strong material.

Native American beadwork changed and evolved over time when settlers started arriving and were bringing multi colored glass beads. With the new glass beads the Native American women were able to obtain through trade, came examples of Native American beadwork that were even more beautiful and extraordinary than previously. These handcrafted Native American beads became very popular for trade to the Native people as well. Many European women liked the intricate designs of glass beads and precious stones and some of these became quite a valuable commodity for the Native tribes. You can still find some of the traditional Native American bead necklaces made by Native American traditionalists that want to preserve their extremely crafty heritage. It was a dying art to many Native American tribes but in recent years it is on the rise again with a lot of Native American crafts and artwork are becoming increasingly popular throughout society today. It is amazing looking back through history at many of these Native American crafts and realizing how intelligent and creative the Native Americans were. They laid the foundation for everything that exists today and it is great to see their rich cultural history living on through their arts and crafts such as beadwork.

Other Resources:

Native American Beadwork
Native American Beadwork: Techniques and Samples

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