Native American Designs

Known for its intricacy and diversity, Native American art has captured the imagination of many art scholars and enthusiasts. Since there are so many tribes, each with unique symbols and practices, it's a little too broad to be classified simply as "Native American" art. For instance, tribes that lived on the plains used pictographic displays that had stick figures with little detail in their pictures. Great Lakes tribes commonly used stitched flower symbols on their bags and clothing.

Meanwhile, art from the Southwest tribes is considered to be some of the most intricate. The tribes decorate everything from pottery to baskets to jewelry. They tend to use the Thunderbird frequently, and it is particularly prevalent in their jewelry. Oddly enough, the Knife-wing bird known as Zuni is also prevalent in the art of the Hopi tribe.

The motifs of snakes and lightning are very common in southwest tribal art. When combined, they become a single element known as the "lightning arrow."The symbol means rain and fertility. Southwest tribes also lay claim to one of the most well-known Native American symbols: the Kokopelli. Representing fertility, the Kokopelli is often placed on pottery.

The Great Plains Native Americans use the same symbols as well, only varying in color, depending on what plants are available for dyes. For them, an arrow represents protection, while a cactus represents the desert. Further, a flower is a symbol of courtship, while fences are drawn to protect a family's good luck. A horse represents a journey.

No matter the tribe, one common attribute of Native Americans is their devotion to the sun. Central to nearly every culture, many tribes have their own symbols for it. The Navajo and Zuni tribes use this sun symbol to represent life, warmth, and growth. The Zia Pueblo tribe uses this Zia symbol to represent the sun, while the Hopi uses this symbol for the sun.

Another thing many tribes share is the totem. The totem is a wooden carving, as well as a symbol of a person's animal guide. The animal guides represent different qualities. For instance, a cheetah represent swiftness, insight, and focus, while a dog represents nobility and protection. Horses mean freedom and mobility. An otter means playfulness and joy.

Native American art is fascinating as some tribes share symbols no matter how far apart, while others create symbols that are unique to their own tribes or even just their own families.

American Indian Topics





Native American Indians




American Indian Art




Southwestern Resources




Indians Misc.




American Indians