Native Expression: The Art of Totem Poles
Native Americans created and used many shapes, designs, colors, and materials as an expression of their cultures and identities. Native art designs became a way to communicate tribal and family traditions and individual artistic skill and expression. These art forms have adapted over time and ensure that future generations continue traditions and reinforce tribal identity. In this program, students will explore art forms based on region or tribal nation. By examining and looking closer at one art form, students will better understand how diverse Native cultures are.
The Art of Totem Poles
How do animals appear in art traditions throughout American Indian cultures? Native nations along the North Pacific Coast have long used animals in their living stories and to represent their clans. One way these nations, such as the Tsimshian, incorporate animals into their art is with totem poles. Totem poles are tall, wooden sculptures carved with images of animals and symbols. They serve to record history and tell stories. Movement is part of this program.
- Learn to identify Native art forms that reinforce tribal identity.
- Explore how Native art forms have adapted and continue today.
1: American Indian Cultures
Culture is a result of human socialization. People acquire knowledge and values by interacting with other people through common language, place, and community. In the Americas, there is vast cultural diversity among more than 2,000 tribal groups. Tribes have unique cultures and ways of life that span history from time immemorial to the present day.
2: Time, Continuity, and Change
Indigenous people of the Americas shaped life in the Western Hemisphere for millennia. After contact, American Indians and the events involving them greatly influenced the histories of the European colonies and the modern nations of North, Central, and South America. Today, this influence continues to play significant roles in many aspects of political, legal, cultural, environmental, and economic issues. To understand the history and cultures of the Americas requires understanding American Indian history from Indian perspectives.
Use the calendar below to request a virtual field trip. Programs must be requested at least 7 days in advance. All program times are in Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).
Questions? Contact Group Reservations at NMAI-GroupReservations@si.edu.