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Native American Indian Art Wood Carvings of the Pacific Northwest

Native American Indian art in the American southwest is dominated by the magnificent pottery and jewelry in the region. When it comes to the Pacific Northwest region which covers the states of Oregon, Washington, British Columbia (Canada) and the southern part of Alaska, the Native American art here is mostly wood carvings. This is not surprising since unlike the southwest desert, the Pacific Northwest is abundant with forests which have provided the wood as raw material for the region’s Native American Indian art.

The wood carvings of the Pacific Northwest Native American art come in many different forms. The huge totem poles which are carved on entire tree trunks are probably the most famous. Certainly the most common form of contemporary Pacific Northwest Native American art is the plaque wood carving. The entire range of Pacific Northwest Native American Indian art subjects including eagles, ravens, thunderbirds, bears, killer whales and salmons are carved as plaques to be hung on the wall. A more complex project and usually higher priced would be the masks which are also carved out of wood. The Pacific Northwest Native American artists make some of the most striking aboriginal masks in the world.

Creative artists and carvers from this region have also used wood to carve out bowls, paddles, rattles and boxes which are all expertly decorated with Pacific Northwest Native American Indian designs. Some carvers have even carved more day to day objects such as letter openers out of wood again decorated with the region’s Native motifs. Although not restricting themselves to just wood, the Pacific Northwest Native American artists also do art prints, paintings and precious metal jewelry but overall wood is still the most common material used in their artwork.

The Pacific Northwest style of Native American Indian art is still unknown to many parts of North America and the rest of the world but this will definitely change as the 2010 winter Olympics in British Columbia approaches. The world will see British Columbia and as visitors to this Canadian province have already noticed, there are fine examples of Pacific Northwest Native American Indian art everywhere one goes in the west coast of Canada.

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Collecting Native American Pottery

Native American pottery is fun to collect. There are so many different pueblos, and each one has its own style of pottery. While collecting the pottery, you are also learning a lot about Native American art and culture.

This form of art has been practiced for thousands of years. Yet it is constantly improving as modern artists are experimenting with new techniques and designs. You can purchase antique pottery or modern versions, and each has its pros and cons. Of course, the older pottery is much more expensive, if it is in good condition, because of the value as an antique. But the newer pottery can be just as beautiful or even more so. It is important to collect what you like and can afford.

The first thing you should do is visit some websites and look at photos of Native American pottery. When you see enough good quality pottery, you will train your eye to recognize what is good. Be sure to read some books on the subject as well.

If you can visit New Mexico or Arizona, be sure to visit some of the pueblos where the pottery is made. Often the pueblo will have a cultural center where they display works of the local artists, along with a lot of information about their history and crafts. This will help you get a feel for the pottery as well.

You can purchase pottery at these cultural centers, but you might be better off buying the pottery directly from the artist. For sure, you should not buy the pottery at the expensive shops in the tourist areas of Santa Fe or Albuquerque. It will be marked up a great deal there.

You can also purchase pueblo pottery online. You can often get some good discounts at online sites. Of course, you can’t handle the pottery then, so be sure that they have good photos of the pottery at the website.

Try to get the largest examples of pottery you can afford. It should not have any chips or cracks, as that will reduce the value. Also, some pottery is made from molds, which is ok, but the hand made pottery is more valuable. In any case, even the pottery made from a mold should be hand painted beautifully by the potter.

It is fun to collect pottery from the different pueblos. It is amazing how different they can be. The differences could be in the color of clay used, the shapes of the pottery, the subject matter of sculptures, the amount of carving on the piece, the style of painting, and so on. Get a good book showing the various styles. It wll help you a lot.

There are many different types of pottery too. Some are ollas, bowls, seed pots, traditional wedding vases, story teller figurines, figures of animals, and many others.

Some of the Native American potters have become quite famous, and their work can be very expensive, but it is also extremely beautiful. But the work of lesser known potters can be lovely as well, and is much more affordable. You can always start out simply and purchase more expensive pottery as you get more familiar with it.

Enjoy your new hobby of collecting Native American pottery!

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The Salmon in Northwest Native Indian Artwork and Culture

There are several species of salmon fish in the Pacific Northwest region. These are the Coho, Sockeye, Pink, Chum, Atlantic and the largest which is the King or Chinook. Salmon are born in the rivers and swim down to the ocean where they live in the saltwater. At spawning time, they return to the river where they were born, lay the eggs, and then die. The young hatch and start the life cycle over again. Salmon fish have always been an important mainstay food source for the Northwest Native Indian people as well as much wildlife in the region including many large birds, bears, and river otters. This is the reason why the salmon is a popular subject in Northwest Native Indian artwork and culture.

According to Northwest Native Indian legend, the salmon were actually people with superhuman abilities and eternal lives. The Salmon people lived in great houses under the ocean but since they knew that humans on land needed food, they offered themselves to the land based tribes as food by turning into salmon fish. Their spirits were returned back to the ocean where they were reborn again. One tribe on land was short of food because the salmon never came to their waters. But they heard about the Salmon people. So the chief sent out an expedition to find these Salmon people in order to ask them to come to their waters. After many days of travel, the expedition arrived in a new land where the Salmon people were. The chief of the Salmon people ordered four of their villagers to go into the sea where they became salmon as soon as the water reached their faces. He ordered others to retrieve these new salmon fish which were then cooked as a welcoming feast for the guests in the expedition.

The chief told the guests to eat as much but the bones of the salmon fish, even the smallest ones, were not to be thrown out. All of the salmon bones were collected by the villagers after the guests were careful enough to lay them into little piles. The Salmon people then threw these bones back into the water. Minutes later, the four individuals who originally turned into the salmon fish reappeared and joined the others.

Over the next few days, the guests watched the Salmon people repeat this process with the salmon bones over and over again. However, during a subsequent feast, one of the guests from the expedition secretly held back some of the salmon bones. This time, when one of the Salmon people came back from out of the water, he was covering his face and said that some of the bones must be missing since his cheeks were gone. Another said that she was missing her chin. Alarmed by what had happened, the guest brought out the missing salmon bones he had previously held back. The two Salmon people with missing body parts then went back into the sea with these bones. Upon their return back to land, both Salmon people had their complete bodies again.

The expedition asked the chief to let some of his Salmon people visit their waters and streams to help supply much needed food. The chief agreed to do so as long as the tribe agreed to throw back all the salmon bones into the water so that the Salmon people could return home intact. If this was not respected, the tribe was told that the Salmon people would refuse to return to the tribe’s waters. So the tribe always honored the return of the salmon to their streams every year and respected the rules set by the Salmon people chief. This ensured an adequate food supply for the tribe every year.

One interesting fact is that when White men first arrived to the region, the Northwest Native Indian people did not want to sell salmon to them. It was feared that the salmon not be treated with respect by the White men who were ignorant of the required customs and regulations set by the Salmon people.