The biggest tattoo movement to happen in the Americas occurred before European settlers set their first foot on the ground. Granted, Sailor Jerry tattoos made history, but they couldn’t surpass the thousands of years of Native American Tattoo designs that came before them. Long before tattoo ointment made healing a safe process, these designed served a dedicated purpose to everyone who wore them. In today’s tattoo gallery, let’s talk all about Native American tattoo designs!
Native American Tattoos History
When humans first made their journey into the Americas, tattoos went with them. The art form developed further as the migrants formed different tribes and traveled further from one another. Theories suggest that tattoos were originally meant for healing purposes. This was all before the use of lidocaine cream and other numbing creams, so it was definitely a spiritual process as well. Of course, this meaning changed during the migration, with some tribes using it for rituals and others thinking of it as art with no magical purpose whatsoever.
If you ask for a Native American tattoo in modern tattoo shops, your artist will point to a portrait of a generic Chief, or maybe a skull wearing a feather headdress. If you’re lucky, they will point out some Native American warrior tattoos, and while generic, they have at least some kind of meaning. So unless you do want a portrait of a specific person, you’ll have to learn about the symbols on your own!
Native American Tribes
Native American culture and traditions varies dramatically between different tribes. The art styles of the Inuit use curved lines and images, while a more southerly tribe like the Hupa use a mix of geometric shapes and realism to create interesting tattoo designs. A dream catcher symbol means very different things from one tribe to the next, despite their constant affiliation with dreams. This is reflected in the different types of Native American tattoos. When you pick a Native American tattoo design, start with what tribe you want the design to come from. Surprisingly, the dozens of tribal art styles all look unique, so knowledgeable people spot a generic tattoo right away.
Native American Tattoo Meanings
So, you want a modern Native American tattoo? Find an artist with a fancy tattoo chair or tattoo bed and focus your attention on a single tribe’s traditions (preferably one that has great significance to you). After you pick a tribe for your Native American tattoo, check out what kind of symbols they use. Some common Native American symbols and meanings include Cherokee hieroglyphs, Haida thunderbirds, Inuit ravens, and the widely renowned eagle feather. Native American feather tattoos can technically come from any bird, but the eagle soars closest to the heavens, making their feathers the most sacred to many tribes. Dream catchers also look great as tattoos, with their intricate geometric design translating well into black ink.
Ultimately, you won’t run into trouble finding an artist capable of inking a Native American tattoo. The symbols and images have withstood a thousand years of recreation, and replicating them feels like writing to artists. However, you will need to do a lot of your own research to discover the meaning behind your tattoo design—preferably before you get it inked! These designs offer layers of depth and help spread Native American culture to all who see them. Who knows? With time, maybe artists will stop offering skulls with headdresses and use actual symbols instead!
If you enjoyed this article, it’s only the start of your adventure! We have more in-depth articles on Feather Tattoos, Dreamcatcher Tattoos, Eagle Tattoos, and more on InkDoneRight. As always, thanks for reading!