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Congratulations to the winner of this previous giveaway, Raven H. from Connecticut!
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History of Native American Beadwork
It is hard not to think of beadwork when you think of Indigenous art. Colorful beads are carefully and deliberately placed to create a design unique to the style of the beadwork artist. Each tribe has its unique designs, colors, patterns, and techniques. Beadwork is one of the best-known art forms practiced by Indigenous people.
Before colonization, Indigenous peoples created their beads from natural materials such as wood, shells, stone, and semi-precious stones Jasper and turquoise.3 Many tribes were also making quillwork - a textile embellishment using porcupine quills similar to beading.1 The small beads associated with the beaded designs we know today originated in Europe and were one of the earliest goods traded with tribes.1 The initial rarity of the bright glass beads made their worth skyrocket3, and through tribal trade routes and networks, the beads were distributed until they could be found in even the most remote parts of what would later become the U.S.1
Beadwork quickly became a part of Indigenous culture and was used in marriage ceremonies, trade agreements, treaties, spiritual dances, and celebrations.3 Today, you can find beaded headbands on hats, bolo ties, belts, beaded jewelry, phone cases, and even a pair of shoes. Most often, you will find beadwork on regalia worn at powwows. These tiny beads may have originated in Europe but are now an intricate part of Indigenous identity.
What are a few different beading styles?
There are many beading techniques, but two very different styles include the lazy or lane stitch and the tack or flat stitch.
The lazy stitch is composed of lanes with many rows of beads and each row can have up to nine beads at a time. This style of beading is used for many of the geometric designs in beadwork.2
Beaders use the tack stitch to work with more detailed and circular designs. "Tack beading is a style that is flat and smooth to the touch. It is very refined and is popular with contemporary artists."2
Appropriation vs. Appreciation
According to the Cambridge dictionary, appropriation is "the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect the culture." 4 For example, making great personal profit from Native "inspired" designs is appropriation. Does this mean you can't wear Native fashion or decorate your house with Native Home goods? You absolutely can, but please make sure you are purchasing from an actual Native artist — not someone who is using Native designs to make a profit.
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1 www.kshs.org/kansapedia/native-american-beadwork/ 2 windriver.org/understanding-native-beadwork/ 3 powwows.com/native-american-beadwork-a-rich-history-of-cultural-techniques/ 4 https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/cultural-appropriation
See the rules for this giveaway here.