Native American Tattoos | Indian Tattoo Design Ideas & Meaning

Tree of Life and Native American Chameleon tattoo

Tree of Life and Native American Chameleon tattoo

Native American tattoos have incorporated body art into the Native American culture since the beginning of time. They would use things like rocks or sharp pieces of bone in place of modern day needles to do their tattoos. Instead of ink, which was not yet invented, they would use dyes found in nature or soot to stain the skin carvings. There were many reasons that they tattooed themselves and both men and women would go through the tattooing process.

Different tribes were known for different Native American tattoos. They were used as a system of identification of regions and tribes and many of them held some kind of spiritual and/or mystical meaning to the people who wore them. Several tribes thought that the tattoos would give them some type of strength (physical or mental) or supernatural power. There were also those who got Native American tattoos of animals that were associated with their birth or of the animals whose qualities that they wanted to possess. Also, it is not a secret that many Native American men had to fight battles, both against other tribes and white settlers. When the Native Americans were victorious, they would give the hero of the battle a special tattoo to show their heroism. Tattoos were also given for hunting and rites of passage. The tattoos given to women were not for any of the above. Instead they were beauty enhancers. (We have come so far haven’t we?)

Types of Native American Tattoos

Native American woman with feathers tattoo

Native American woman with feathers

Even though all Native American tribes used tattooing in their cultures, the top two tribes that were most famous for these works of art were the Iroquois and the Cree. The men of the Cree tribe often tattooed their chests, legs, arms and even their entire body. Getting inked around the lips and the chin was also common and I am sure you can imagine how much that would hurt given their tattooing equipment! The Iroquois men would mark their thighs with tattoos to show how many battle kills that have had and the women would do it for medical reasons. Back than the people thought that putting a tattoo on one area of the body would take pain and/or infection out of another area of the body. For instance, they thought a toothache could be cured by getting a tattoo. (If only that really worked I would have more than five tattoos!)

Today, people who have their roots in the Native American world like to get tattoos that symbolize their original family tribes. This can be tricky as record keeping was not a strong point of Native Americans. The key is to do as much research as you can to ensure that you are getting the right symbol. Even people who do not have (or are unsure of) any Native American heritage are drawn to Native American tattoos. However, the modern tattoos usually depict pictures of Native Americans, feathers, dream catchers, Native American items (an example would be tomahawks) and eagles. Many tattoo artists get regular request for Native American tattoos.

If what you want is to get your original family tribal sign but you have no idea where to start, try beginning your search here. They have good information on how to trace your Native American roots and it just may lead you to your family tattoo! Though it can be a challenge, finding it will feel so good that the trouble you went through will be well worth it!

Placement and Colors for Native American Body Art

While you can put your Native American body art anywhere you please, there are some spots that are more popular to others. Dream catchers look fabulous on the shoulder blades, shoulder/upper arm area, and the small of the back. There are even more options for feathers. They can go on the arms, legs, wrists, back, shoulders, neck, ribcage, and even the face. Pictures of Native Americans are more typical for men than for women. They go best on the chest, the bicep area and the back. Placement of the tribal symbols depends heavily on the symbol and its size.

The colors of Native American tattoos depend on the design and the personality of the one getting the tattoo. Feathers can be many different colors; bright and vivid or dull or plain black. Many people opt for Native American tribal art which can be put on in the form of a sleeve if that is what you prefer. Native American faces are typically done with bright and beautiful coloring in the feathers and natural looking faces. This goes for both male and female depictions of Native Americans. Eagles are done in natural colors or in tribal form. Totem poles (not mentioned above) are typically brightly colored.

Famous Faces with Native American Tattoos


Trace Cyrus’ Native American Tattoo

Trace Cyrus, brother of Miley Cyrus, is a rock band member who is in love with the ink. He is also a connoisseur of Native American tattoos. The side of his head has been shaved and on his skull is a depiction of a Native American chief and it is a fairly large piece. The actress from the movie the Terminator 3 and the television show Painkiller Jane also has a love for Native American tattoos. Her name is Kristanna Loken and her work of art is the Native American symbol that signifies strength. She also has an Indian horse inked on her left ankle. Amy Winehouse had a tat of an Indian feather. Dream catcher tattoos are very popular in Hollywood as well. Miley Cyrus has one placed right underneath her armpit on the right side. It is a plain yet elegant piece that is done in all black ink.

So, if you have your heart set on a Native American tattoo, you have much too choose from and much to inspire you. Choose wisely and be prideful in the fact that you are carrying an American tradition on your body!

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