Why Did Native Americans Have Tattoos?

Symbols of Status and Achievement

Tattoos were once reserved for sailors and carnival barkers, but Native American culture viewed them as status and achievement symbols. They also commemorate significant moments like a person’s first menstrual period.

Expressions of Art and Culture

Tattoos were a form of artistic expression among Native peoples, marking achievements, social status, and coming-of-age ceremonies. They also represented spiritual beliefs and practices.

The debate over Cultural Appropriation

Many non-Natives now copy or take inspiration from traditional Indigenous tattoos, sparking debate among indigenous communities. Some see it as cultural appropriation, while others view it as a sign of respect and admiration for Native culture.

Tattoos for Protection and Healing

Native Americans adorned themselves with Tattoos representing their spiritual beliefs. Some tribes used tattoos as protective talismans against evil spirits. Tattoos were also believed to have healing properties for the wearers.

Tattoos as Identity Markers

Tattoos played a significant role in identifying tribe membership, rank within the community, and fundamental beliefs among Native American tribes. They were often used to signify tribal loyalty and social status.

Pride and Healing for Modern Indigenous People

Modern Indigenous individuals proudly display their traditional tattoos as acts of pride and healing. Tattoos help erase the history of colonization and associated pain for Native communities.