Native American tattoos have incorporated body art into the Native American culture since the beginning of time.
Tattoos have been prevalent throughout history. The first tattoo was found on a mummy dated back to 6000 BC. These discoveries showed that tattoos were used for medicinal and cosmetic purposes because they were located in common acupuncture points.
Tattoos had multiple purposes, and their meanings were unique to each culture or group of people that had them.
Specifically, tattoos in Native American history have cultural significance contrasting some modern-day tattooing practices. The reasons and meanings behind these Native American tattoos vary from tribe to tribe. Many of these tattoos were a representation of heritage and tribe loyalty. Some signified a connection to nature or the region in which the tribe resides. Often tattoos were spiritual symbols. Many people believed their tattoo would provide them with powers and strength.
People also got tattoos of animals that they were associated with or wanted to possess their abilities. It is not a secret that many Native American men had to fight 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.
- 1 History of Native American Tattoos
- 2 Types of Native American Tattoos
- 3 Native American Tattoos in Modern Days
- 4 Placement and Colors
- 5 Native American Tattoo Designs
History of Native American Tattoos
Native American tattoos were etched into the skin using sharpened bone or rock. Once this was done, the wound would be filled in with soot or natural dyes permanently staining the skin. More specifically, the local Kumeyaay tribe tattoos were given by pricking the skin with a cactus thorn or needle made from the yucca plant. Then charcoal from a yucca cabbage or juice from certain leaves would be applied to the wound to create a blue or black ink. While there were a few Kumeyaay men with tattoos, they were primarily done on females because they found them beautiful and decorative.
During ceremonies of adolescents, women got tattoos with two or three lines on their chin. Once they entered adulthood, three dots were also tattooed onto their chin. These markings represented clan affiliations and often signified family lineage for marriage purposes.
Types of Native American Tattoos
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 Cree tribe men 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 battles kill that have had, and the women would do it for medical reasons. People believed that getting a tattoo on a body part would take out the infection or pain.
Native American Tattoos in Modern Days
Today one in three Americans aged 18 to 30 has at least one tattoo, which exemplifies tattooing’s immense popularity. Some people opt for Native American tattoos because they want to pay tribute to their native heritage because they admire the culture or just because they like the look of a specific symbol. For example, tattoos of dream catchers, feathers, and eagles have been popularized in recent years simply because of their aesthetics.
However, many people wish to celebrate Native American culture with their tattoos. For these types of tattoos, it is important to research and learn about specific tribes in order to honor them in the best way possible.
Getting on an authentic Native American tattoo can be challenging if there are very little affiliation and previous knowledge about a particular tribe.
Nonetheless, tattoos have been a large part of Native American culture for centuries, and it will most likely remain this way for generations to come.
Placement and Colors
While you can put your Native American body art anywhere you please, there are some spots that are more popular with 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 you prefer. Native American eagles are done in natural colors or in a tribal way. Totem poles (not mentioned above) are typically brightly colored.
Native American Tattoo Designs
So, if you have your heart set on a Native American tattoo, you have much to chose from and much to inspire you. Choose wisely and be prideful in the fact that you are carrying an American tradition on your body!
Native American Women Tattoos
Native American Warrior Tattoos
Native American Chief Tattoos
Native American Animal Tattoos
More Native American Tattoos