Native American Beadwork

fancy dancer picture

Beadwork in Traditional Regalia

Native Americans traditionally love adornment and fancy beadwork in their clothing--especially in clothing worn at powwows and other dance competitions. Hidden meanings are embedded within the colors and patterns; the symbols and designs the colored beads form are each significant.

For example, the outfit at left is worn by a boy whose Indian name is Eagle Child. The beads in his regalia are significant; he explains, "I chose the colors and the pattern of my outfit. These are sky colors from my Indian name. The pattern--small diamond shapes--stands for the mountains that surround my people."

Fancy dancing outfits, as their name implies, are extremely elaborate and used in competitions to highlight a dancer's energy and rhythmic skill. Like Eagle Child's outfit, fancy dancing regalia usually consists of feather bustles and intricate beadwork.

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beaded earrings Like most tribal nations throughout the world, Native American tribes adorn themselves with jewelry, much of which is made from beads. Native American beadwork often uses small glass beads to form designs on clothing, shoes, jewelry, and other forms of bodily decoration. Different tribes often use different types of beads in the formation of their jewelry. For example, the northern Iroquios often shape their beads into likenesses of tiny faces. Animals, human shapes, and fish are also used as models for their beadwork.

Although we may think of beads being primarily made of glass, beads may be made from shells, metal, antlers, stone, ceramic, wood, or other materials. They can be small or large, heavy or light. They come in all shapes and all sizes.

There is no limit to what an artist can do with these beads. They can be combined with crystals to make beautiful necklaces or woven around stones to form swirling trails of rainbows.

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Marketing Beadwork on the Web

Paintings, illustrations, jewelry, and beadwork are for sale all over the Web. Many sites are set up exclusively for the display and sale of items such as earrings and moccasins. The merchandise may not all be contemporary; there is a pair of child's moccasins (circa 1890) for sale for $2,000.00.

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