Sample History Paper on Native American Culture

The Native American art is broad. It comprises artworks, architecture, music, and literature among others. Essentially, it considerably reflects the social organization and cultures of the American people. America political institutions and military organizations have for a long time created art forms in the world of artillery, symbols of office, and panoply. The art portrays civilizations witnessed, in the form of the dominant cultures of the people. For instance, it is used for religious purposes and to a significant extent as ceremonial objects. Moreover, artworks have been crucial in aesthetic expressions that have been passed from one generation to another, obviously reflecting a considerable amount of theocracy that existed.

Across the world, art has historically been applied in the composition of objects intended to be used in pleasing deities, calming angry gods, frightening evil spirits, honoring newborn children and appeasing the deceased among other reasons. In America, natives sought to exercise environmental control and human or supernatural creatures that often threatened their existence. Native Americans use artworks to serve their religious and secular needs. For example, many artistic decorations provide clues for uses, such the use of plain-ware bowls to prepare food, and religious literature is highly embellished. Fundamentally, some artistic objects in America were composed to serve dual purposes as they could be used as households and to fulfill religious purposes.

The artworks could be viewed in more than one dimension. On the surface, they represented the true nature of different aspects of the communities to which they belonged. However, they also had implied connotations, such as presenting magical cultural meaning. For example, initiated hand in artworks could signify supernatural powers or be used to call unforeseen forces to help the native community. Also, studies reveal that art design elements such as forms, shapes, and decorations were critical in rendering cultural messages irrespective of physical state or appearance of objects (January 16). Different Native American cultures compose artworks that reflected the nature and composition of their environment. For example, those who lived in heavy forest became competent sculptors in wood while those that occupied areas with plenty lay became gifted potters. Native American painters imposed designs and compositions on flat, rectangular canvas and followed prescribed design principles. They adapted to their design principles and natural outlines of materials to facilitate composition of art.

Different groups in America had diverse ways of composing art concerning their cultural beliefs and expressions. However, they frequently borrowed certain design principles and elements, such as forms. This assertion is supported by the presence of objects in museum collections that vehemently reveal composition mediums such as feathers, leaves, shell, and jade among others, believed to have been collected miles away from each other (Kidwell et al. 35). Interaction and assimilation defined the composition of art as in the case of Athabaskan Navajo who migrated into Pueblo Southwest and acquired new aesthetic qualities and expression. Navajo were excellent weavers when they arrived. While the Puebla group was highly developed in this art, both groups leaned new concepts and techniques as they interacted and became sophisticated artists who composed beautiful pieces of art. An example of a masterpiece is the Classic Navajo Blanket composed around 1855-1865 and can be viewed in the Newark Museum, New Jersey. Culturally, The blankets were pure artifacts that depicted living people’s past. Culturally, the baskets were used to communicate general information on historical trends and trade paths and thus were compositions that dispelled speculations about the community.

To the Southwest of America, there are pieces of art in terms of stone abodes which are a testament that rich ancient American culture existed. These dwelling joints were composed and crafted in ways that they blended well with the environment and met its demands. Notably, the dwelling places had thick reinforced stone walls to keep the inside warm during unfavorable weather conditions. This group of people includes the Hohokam of southern Arizona and Ancestral Pueblo of northern Arizona.  They produced some of the most successful artworks as they were masters in weaving, painting, pottery, and sculpturing. It has been established that artworks produced were of rigid forms and involved little experimentation before reworking patterns to come up with excellent designs of artworks (Ward 18).  Even though sculpture failed to produce excellent artworks, the Wooden Hopi Kachina doll artwork, composed in 1925, is an example that served cultural and religious purposes significantly. Additionally, it is carved and painted cottonwood and popularly found in altars and religious places. It is one of the figures not composed and produced for commercial purposes but serves religious purposes.

Lastly, the Native American communities also inactively practiced basketry and pottery. The former was intended for commercial use though it also represented ancient cultural beliefs and values. The Puebla communities were able to produce splendid pottery artworks by delicately using silver jewelry as medium and applying constructive design elements and principles. An example of such artwork is the Zuni Water Jar created during the late 19th–early 20th century. It signifies that cultural responsibility of women anchored on the ability to serve their husbands.


Works Cited

January, Brendan. Native American Art & Culture. Chicago: Raintree, 2005. Print.

Kidwell, Clara S, and Alan R. Velie. Native American Studies. Lincoln [Neb.: University of

Nebraska Press, 2005. Print.

Ward, Gerald W. R. Native American Art. Boston, Mass: MFA Publications, Museum of Fine

Arts, Boston, 2010. Print.



Figure 1: Classic Navajo blanket, c. 1855–65; in the Newark Museum, New Jersey. 110 × 156 cm.

Figure 2: Wooden Hopi kachina doll, c. 1925; in the George Gustav Heye Center of the National Museum of the American Indian, New York City. Height 64 cm.


Figure 3: Zuni water jarWater jar, clay, slip, Native American, Zuni Pueblo, late 19th–early 20th century; in the Brooklyn Museum, New York. Height 31.7 cm., diameter 22.2 cm.