American Southwest Pottery Researched by Allison Robbins Ceramics appeared about 2,000 years ago in the American Southwest, and dynamic changes in the form and design of pottery have occurred periodically throughout its existence. Beginning in the 17th …
This exhibit presents five reproductions of ornaments from the indigenous Pre-Columbian cultures of the Intermediate or Isthmian Region, an area known today as the countries of Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia. The reproductions represent five different ancient cultures, including the Diquís, the Gran Chiriquí, the Darién, the Tairona, and the Muisca, who made elaborate metalwork objects from tumbaga, an alloy of gold and copper.
This loom-woven band and rosette illustrate two different beadwork techniques commonly used by Native artists from the northern Great Plains cultures. Both of these objects were made using waxed cotton thread, imported glass seed beads, and a very thin needle known as a beading needle that can pass through the tiny seed beads.
Most of the objects in this exhibit were made by or for Bill Lemons. Mr. Lemons was a respected Native American of Great Plains cultural heritage who attended many powwows and did demonstrations of making powwow regalia for many groups, especially the Boy Scouts of America. His collections were donated to the Ralph Foster Museum.
Cultures of the American Southwest, particularly the Hopi, are well-known for producing brightly carved figures depicting Kachinas, the benevolent spirits of the Pueblo cultures. The traditional, more simplified and static figures are called tihus, and these are given to young girls as educational toys so that they may learn all of the different Kachina spirits.
The production of fine textiles has been part of the artistic traditions of Native American Southwest cultures for thousands of years. The Navajo cultures, who call themselves the Dine, were producing textiles long before they migrated from the northern Great Plains down to the Southwest by the 14th century; there, they interacted with their Pueblo neighbors and exchanged weaving traditions.
Native American rattles have been used in ceremonies, dances, and rituals as musical instruments, and they continue to be used today as a way of keeping heritage alive and educating children on Native culture.
The powwow is an important feature of contemporary Native American culture. Powwows are vital to Native communities because the events help to keep Native traditions and practices alive and help create a strong sense of cultural identity for those who participate. This is important because throughout the history of the United States, Native cultures were repressed to the point where languages and cultural traditions were made virtually extinct—a practice known as cultural genocide.
The Mississippian cultures (1000-ca. 1550 C.E. or later) of the North American Eastern Woodlands produced highly creative ceramic vessels and sculpture. Prominent among these vessels are effigies, or vessels that take the form of people, animals, or plants. These vessels very likely had symbolic meaning, possibly relating to a person’s family, to membership in a group, to religious beliefs, to cultural stories or mythologies, or to rank and status. As highly decorative pieces, many of these vessels were likely used in rituals or for special events; some show a great deal of wear and use.
Native American basketry was an essential part of Native culture, both for its utilitarian and ritual purposes and for its decorative designs. Baskets served to hold important personal belongings, to aid in collecting and protecting food, to carry heavy loads and utilitarian items such as arrows, and even to catch fish. Some cultures also adapted basketry to serve as baby carriers, as drums, and as water bottles by coating the basket with resin.