Chilkat Weaving

Chilkat weaving is a traditional form of weaving practiced by the Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, and other Northwest Coast peoples of Alaska and British Columbia. Chilkat blankets are worn by high-ranking tribal members for civic or ceremonial occasions, including dances.

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Adobe Houses

Adobe houses (also known as pueblos) are Native American house complexes used by the Pueblo Indians of the Southwest. Adobe pueblos are modular, multi-story houses made of adobe (clay and straw baked into hard bricks) or of large stones cemented together with adobe.

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Each adobe unit is home to one family, like a modern apartment. The whole structure, which can contain dozens of units, is often home to an entire extended clan. Adobe houses are good homes to build in a warm, dry climate where adobe can be easily mixed and dried.

These are homes for farming people who have no need to move their village to a new location. In fact, some Pueblo people have been living in the same adobe house complex, such as Sky City, for dozens of generations.

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Dream Catchers

Dream catchers are one of the most fascinating traditions of Native Americans. The traditional dream catcher was intended to protect the sleeping individual from negative dreams, while letting positive dreams through.

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The positive dreams would slip through the hole in the center of the dream catcher, and glide down the feathers to the sleeping person below. The negative dreams would get caught up in the web, and expire when the first rays of the sun struck them.

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The Inuit People

Inuit people are the most widely dispersed group in the world still leading a partly aboriginal way of life. They live in a region that spans more than 3,500 miles. This region includes Greenland, the northern fringe of North America, as well as a sector of eastern Siberia. Inuit are racially distinct from the North American Indians. In fact, the Inuit are closely related to the Mongolian peoples of eastern Asia. The Inuit – Aleut languages are unrelated to any American Indian language groups. At no time did the Inuit possess a national or well – defined tribal sense. The Inuit emphasis was always on the local and familial group rather than on associations based on land and territory.

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Chumash Cave Paintings

Chumash Cave Paintings are among the most elaborate and colorful in the world.

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Shamans, or Chumash priests, are thought to have made these paintings to influence supernatural beings and forces to intervene in human affairs.

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The earliest Chumash used charcoal for their drawings, but as their culture evolved, they colorfully decorated caves using, red, orange, black, white, and yellow pigments.

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These colorful yet simple cave paintings included human figures and animal life.

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Native American Birds of Myth and Legend

Birds play a wide variety of roles in Native American mythology. Frequently they serve as messengers from the Creator, or between humans and the spirit world. Eagle plays a leadership role in the mythology of many tribes, while Raven is frequently portrayed as culture hero, trickster, or both.

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Other Native American birds play the parts of heroes, villains, wise advisors, flighty suitors, jealous competitors, and everything in between.

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Birds are common clan animals in many different Native American tribes. Besides the major clans related to specific types of birds (such as the Eagle Clan and the Raven Clan), there are also generalized Bird Clans in some tribes, such as the Bird Clan of the Creek tribe (called Fusualgi or Fuswvlke), the Bird Clan of the Cherokees (called Anijisqua or Anitsiskwa), or the Feather Clan of the Mi’kmaq tribe. Birds are the most important clan crests of most Northwest Coast tribes and are commonly carved on totem poles (especially Eagle, Raven, and Thunderbird).

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Longhouses

Longhouses are Native American homes used by the Iroquois tribes and some of their Algonquian neighbors. They are built similarly to wigwams, with pole frames and elm bark covering. The main difference is that longhouses are much, much larger than wigwams. Longhouses could be 200 feet long, 20 feet wide, and 20 feet high.

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Inside the longhouse, raised platforms created a second story, which was used for sleeping space. Mats and wood screens divided the longhouse into separate rooms. Each longhouse housed an entire clan– as many as 60 people! Longhouses were good homes for people who intended to stay in the same place for a long time.

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A longhouse is large and takes a lot of time to build and decorate. The Iroquois were farming people who lived in permanent villages. Iroquois men sometimes built wigwams for themselves when they were going on hunting trips, but women might live in the same longhouse their whole life.

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Native American Pottery

Native American pottery dates as far back as 2,000 years ago. It was then that nomadic peoples began to settle down. They learned to make pottery that varied in shape. The shape was dependent on what purpose the pottery was to serve. Native Americans used pottery to hold water, store grains, and preserve seeds for the next planting season.

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Also among other examples of Native American pottery were the pots that would sit on open fires for cooking. In the beginning, Native American pottery was created for practical uses rather than the artistry of the piece. The pieces were plain and usually unsymmetrical. At some point though, it became important to the Native American Indians to decorate their pots.

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Petroglyph Mosaics

Petroglyphs are rock carvings (rock paintings are called pictographs) made by pecking directly on a rock surface using a stone chisel and a hammerstone. When the “desert varnish” on the surface of the rock was pecked off, the lighter rock underneath was exposed, creating the petroglyph.

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It is estimated 90% of  petroglyphs were created by the ancestors of today’s Pueblo Indians. Puebloans have lived in the Rio Grande Valley since before 500 A.D., but a population increase around 1300 A.D. resulted in numerous new settlements. It is believed that the majority of the petroglyphs were carved from about 1300 through the late 1680s.

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The arrival of Spanish people in 1540 had a dramatic impact on the lifestyle of the Pueblo people. In 1680 the Pueblo tribes rose up in revolt of Spanish rule, and drove the settlers out of the area and back to El Paso, Texas. In 1692 the Spanish resettled the area. As a result of their return, there was a renewed influence of the Catholic religion, which discouraged participation by the Puebloans in many of their ceremonial practices.

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As a consequence, many of these practices went underground, and much of the image making by the Puebloans decreased. A small percentage of the petroglyphs found pre-date the Puebloan time period, perhaps reaching as far back as B.C. 2000. Other images date from historic periods starting in the 1700s, with petroglyphs carved by early Spanish settlers.

Hopi Sun Symbols

Hopitu-shinumu (Hopi) means Peaceful People; this serves as a background to understanding their use of symbols. The Hopi were expert craftspeople, and exhibited competent agricultural skills.

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Their connection with the land, cultivating, and harvesting was regarded as superior to other tribes. Specifically, their ability to skillfully coax yielding corn from the desert sands was commended by all. This connection to earth, and nature was constantly exhibited in Hopi symbols.

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Art was a way of life for the Hopi; it expressed their visions, beliefs and dreams to themselves and others. As artisans, they incorporated their Hopi symbols into an array of dazzlingly beautiful baskets, weavings, and pottery.

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The Hopi sun symbol was a symbol of creative and natural energy. It was important because of Hopi’s dependence upon it for the growth of corn, and other sustaining crops. The sun symbol represented the heart of the cosmos and dealt with vitality and growth.

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