Native American Patterns

Native Americans used various forms of art to adorn their rugs, blankets and other textiles. The art they applied to the textiles often used specific geometric patterns.

These patterns were colorfully woven into the textiles. The patterns were not just used for decoration and adornment. They also served as significant religious, social and culture symbols.

Origins of Native American Textile Patterns

The patterns used by the Native Americans have a long and complicated history. The Navajo tribe is most famous for the patterns it used in woven textiles.

The Navajo people borrowed this style of geometric patterns from the Pueblo people who lived in the southwest. The Pueblo, in turn, borrowed the patterns from two sources – their ancestral Anasazi people and the Spanish who conquered the territories of the Pueblo.

All these influences contributed to the style of the patterns and shaped their designs over time. Today, Native American patterns are identified with strongly geometric patterns with vibrant colors.

Native American Anasazi Patterns

The Anasazi were the ancestors of the Pueblo people. They lived nearly 2,000 years ago in the modern-day American southwest. The Anasazi were experts in making pottery and they adorned their pottery with many interesting patterns.

Although their patterns were simple geometric designs, they used them creatively and intermixed them to create different designs. Spirals, checkerboard designs, squares, S-shaped curves and circles were frequently used by the Anasazi to adorn mugs, bowls, jugs and other pottery items.

Native American Navajo Patterns

The iconic geometric pattern of Native American rugs and blankets originated with the Navajo tribe. The Navajo arrived in the American southwest around 700 years ago.

Here they came into contact with the Anasazi tribe. They learned the art patterns of the Anasazi and put a creative twist on them. Then they used these patterns in creating rugs and blankets once the Spanish arrived with their weaving technology.

The Navajo used more defined geometric patterns such as the diamond shaped rhombus, rectangles and triangles.

Native American Beadwork Patterns

Many Native American tribes used beadwork to adorn a variety of accessories. They would apply complex bead patterns to various items such as necklaces, belts and headbands.

The Plains Indians were most popularly known for their brilliant beadwork patterns. These included a number of tribes including Kickapoo, Cree, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Sioux and Crow.

In general, the beadwork patterns change from one tribe to another tribe and from one region to another region.

Like the textile patterns of the Indian tribes, the beadwork patterns also carry strong geometric styles as well as depiction of natural elements such as stars, sun, moon, plants and animals.

Native American Patterns and Symbolism

Although patterns were used to adorn rugs, blankets and other items, Native American artists also used them as symbols. Patterns would serve as spiritual or cultural symbols.

The number 4, for instance, indicated completeness. So a pattern with four aspects or four repetitions was considered complete. The number three, in contrast, denoted incompleteness. Similarly, geometric patterns were used to convey different meanings.

Native American Style Seed Bead Jewelry. Part I. Bracelets: 48 Loom Patterns (Volume 1) Paperback – December 6, 2016

Patterns of Exchange: Navajo Weavers and Traders Paperback – February 25, 2013