Indian Tattoos

Indian tattoos weren't used in the same way as modern day tattoos are because they had little to do with aesthetics or the pleasing of the eye. Tribes used different types of tattoos for specific purposes
such as tribe identification. Everyone they encountered who had the same tattoo symbolized a connection and understanding between those people. They also used tattoos as a way of showing the leaders in a tribe, with the highest ranking individuals getting a unique and specialized tattoo.

There were also Indian tattoos used as a way of showing the accomplishments of an individual. A member in the tribe who saved a maiden or did another heroic deed was given a different tattoo than others in the tribe. It let anyone who encountered him know that he did something special. In addition they used some tattoos as a way of gaining power. They believed that by tattooing the body in a specific way, they could gain powers such as the power of the great bear by tattooing his image on their skin. Some even used their spirit guide as a tattoo on their body.

Resources on these tattoos include:

Cherokee Tattoos: discusses tattoos used by the Cherokee along with some modern day versions.

Native American Tattoos: focuses on the process used by these people to ink the body.

Tribal Tattoo History & Symbolism: offers examples of different symbols and what they mean.

Native American Tattoo Designs: provides a history of different tribes and their tattoos.

Tattoos: gives a history of tattoos, including those used by the Native Americans.

There's a general misconception that all tribes passed down their tattoos to the next generation, when this isn't necessarily true. Many of the modern day tribal tattoos were created in the last few decades and bare little connection to the ancestral tattoos. The reason for this is because Indian tattoos were crude and done by hand, meaning that no two looked exactly the same. They often used natural pigments and a chisel to literally pound or scratch the design into the skin. Today's Indian tattoos look far more modern and sleek than those once used by the Native American people.

American Indian Topics





Native American Indians




American Indian Art




Southwestern Resources




Indians Misc.




American Indians