Native American art is also used to describe American Indian or Indian art but it is all visual art created by the aboriginal inhabitants of America. Oddly enough the usage of the word 'art' is largely a European/Western concept only appropriated by the American Indian. In truth, very few Indian peoples actually utilized the term 'art' or even had it within their basic language vocabulary. A beautiful and masterally weaved basket was not seen as 'art' but rather looked at as a powerful object full of ancestral magic. "Artists" were only incorporated within a tribe if wealth was great within a culture. Elite cultures held high religious office and supported artists in the creation of memorial, religious, and/or historic artifacts.
See article Native American Crafts for Kids
While many aboriginal people may have been considered 'artistic' they would never refer to themselves in this manner as the term probably didn't even exist within their vocabulary. That being said, the tribe did however notice if a basket, arrow, or pottery piece was crafted with exquisite skill or lack thereof. Fine craftsmanship was worshiped and highly prized long before the European man came along.
Surprisingly enough, although not deemed an 'artist' the goal of an American Indian crafter is the same of artists present in today's society - to bring forth an emotional response from his or her audience. Within Native American Indian cultures, the ability to successfully evoke emotion and communicate to an audience largely depended on its nod to a peoples tradition. Experimentation was frowned upon and tradition was commended. The artist was to commemorate one specific cultural channel and stick with it. At times one may be granted a slight freedom of expression like in the case of Nampeyo, a famed potter of the Hopi tribe (1859-1942).
See article Native American Art In The Contemporary World
Unfortunately, the origin of many Native American Art pieces can not be traced with accuray today. Several works are lost to antiquity. Beside the obvious natural forms other developmental motifs are interwoven in alien concepts rendering them impossible to fully identify their original source. However, there is significant evidence that a few original forms of art were a result of an individual's 'vision quest'. A vision quest is defined by the native americans as a place and time when the soul is able to leave the body and find insight in many strange activities. Thus, the creatures and odd designs witnessed on several designs of stone, wood, or hide have been derived from the several spiritual beings encountered on the quest. Because of the personal quality behind these designs, they range greatly in aesthetic quality. 'Art' was regarded as personal property due to its individualistic design it could only ever be bought, sold, adopted, or gifted - never appropriated.
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