Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

Native American Tattoos

on December 1, 2021

Many Native American tribes across the United States practiced the art of tattooing for a variety of reasons: to mark special rites of passage, such as puberty; to identify other members of a clan; to scare off enemies; to express spiritual beliefs; to honor great achievements, such as bravery in battle; to provide magical protection and strength; and to mark certain leaders, such as the medicine man.

Tattooers used geometrical designs to represent celestial bodies, natural phenomena, and animals. A person receiving the tattoo of a turtle, for example, would expect to achieve a long, healthy life since turtles symbolized Mother Earth, water, life, and health.

Tattooing was a painful process, but many tribes believed that pain brought a person closer to the spirit world. Designs were cut, hand-tapped, or hand-pricked into the skin with sharp needles made of stone, bone, or other materials. Then dye was rubbed into the wounds.

Black dye could be made from soot or charcoal. Ochre mixed with clay produced a brownish-reddish hue. And blue came from indigo or other materials.

These tattoos became permanent markings on the skin that could be enhanced with temporary body paint, especially during time of war.

Dawn Pisturino

September 25, 2012; November 30, 2021

Copyright 2012-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

10 responses to “Native American Tattoos

  1. Neal Saye says:

    Now I want to get a turtle tattoo!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am so fascinated by the history behind cultural tattoos. What a great recap Dawn on how Native American tats were not just for show, but the art (and pain) was symbolic. I saw a story over the weekend about the practice behind the Polynesian tattoos. There is a spiritual ritual that accompanies getting one, and I am seeing a resurgence of tribal/cultural tattoos and their history, as you mentioned, behind what they mean. It’s almost like the Egyptian hieroglyphics that tell the stories of the past. Great post girlfriend! 👍🏽💖✍🏼

    Liked by 1 person

  3. utahan15 says:

    henna and dye
    the yucca s stucco
    dried on her dermis
    permit me to say ok for you
    not i
    but i am white and the fright
    of spiritual lights
    delays my ephiphany s there

    Liked by 1 person

  4. balladeer says:

    This is a fascinating post!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. A welcome read… the pain, and the spiritual significance to define one’s reality is found in every civilization… now more often than not, tattoos is art… without life…

    Liked by 2 people

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