There are many crafts that are distinctly recognized as art forms of the Cheyenne Nation of North America. The Cheyenne tribe once occupied most of the Great Plains region of the modern United States until the government forced it to relocate to the Indian reservations of Oklahoma during the 1800s. Today, Cheyenne tribes are found in northern Montana and Oklahoma, and many of these Native Americans still create the traditional arts and crafts their ancestors made for centuries.
Bead work is an art form that has always been widely used and appreciated among the Cheyenne tribes of North America. It is still practiced among traditional artisans to this day. Originally, beads were carved from natural materials such as wood, animal bones or precious metals, and used as decoration for clothing items and accessories or as rattlers for instruments and toys. Glass beads became a popular favorite among the Cheyenne when they were introduced by European settlers about 500 years ago. Glass beads and fine seed beads are the primary materials used by modern artisans.
Quill work among the Cheyenne is similar to that of other Plains tribes and the Native Americans of the East Coast. This ancient craft involves softening and dying porcupine quills and weaving them onto other materials, such as birch bark or leather animal hides, to create brilliantly decorated war shirts, birch bark boxes and baskets, moccasins and medicine bags. To Cheyenne women, quill work was viewed as a sacred task of striving for technical precision in the art form, and hopeful artisans had to be sponsored and complete an apprenticeship to join these tight-knit societies.
Like many other Plains tribes, the Cheyenne grew tobacco and carved fine wood pipes to smoke their abundant harvest. This art form was typically taken up by men, who also carved bows and arrows. Smoking tobacco out of what became known as "peace pipes" became a sacred ritual where participants offered prayers before their first smoke with religious importance years before European settlers arrived. The pipe carvers of Cheyenne and other Plains tribes took time and care into crafting each piece, which was assembled by attaching a bowl carved from catlinite, or "pipestone," to a long wooden stem.
- Photo Credit native american image by Joy Fera from Fotolia.com
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