gougetheeyes

Native American tattoos / designs

48 posts in this topic

Pictures would be great to include, but originally wanted to start a conversation about the designs themselves.

I love a native lady head simply cause they're pretty but what's the consensus on whipping up random designs that simply look Native American? You can usually find a chief/lady head design on old flash and they've been a staple of "tattoo history" for a long time. It seems like a fine line though; throw a headdress on em, some face paint and a slouchy shirt with some beadwork and there you go.

Is there a worry that we're appropriating a culture that remains essentially unrepresented in America?

Has anyone with a Native-themed tattoo ever received any feedback from a Native person?

How about some of the strictly graphic designs that have been popping up lately?

Should I have just not started this thread and leave the whole thing alone?

Sort of a big conversation to have but I'd really love to know what you all think.. or if you've even thought about it at all. Also, anyone know Jack Red Cloud's story? I think he's discussed in the McCabe NYC Tattoo book but I leant that out to a friend.

Duffa, polliwog, hogg and 1 other like this

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I live in Oklahoma, and most people I know have at least a little bit of native blood. For example, I am a white guy, but I have 2 types of native blood in my veins Cherokee and Choctaw. That said, here nobody really says anything one way or another. Most people assume that you have some native American heritage if you've got a tattoo along those lines. It doesn't really answer your question, but I would say geography would play a big part in that. I also have a couple of nice native lady pieces drawn up and on display in my booth and have had nothing but compliments by Native Americans who have seen them.

gougetheeyes and Stitch626 like this

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Isn't it the case that traditionally women didn't wear the large headdresses (warbonnets?)? It seems a bit strange to have an image of a woman wearing one, when that goes against the whole tradition.

I can't really say much, though, given I don't live in America. Australian Aborigines didn't have a huge history of tattooing, so there's not much of an equivalent here.

gougetheeyes and hawk like this

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I think people just like the imagery. It's powerful. Natives are a reminder of your wilder more human side I guess. Reminds us of a time when hunting and living off the land was the norm, as opposed to the TV pop culture trash that most of the world has been turned into.

I'm into these Navajo or southwestern style Native designs that Chad Keoplinger has been doing. I'm not sure if I'd get one tattooed, but I'd totally consider a small piece if I was around him or knew him.

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"good time charlie'' Cartwright has some flash maybe he'd sell ya, and one hell of a native image collection, I believe he still has the museum next to his shop in Modesto.

Pictures would be great to include, but originally wanted to start a conversation about the designs themselves.

I love a native lady head simply cause they're pretty but what's the consensus on whipping up random designs that simply look Native American? You can usually find a chief/lady head design on old flash and they've been a staple of "tattoo history" for a long time. It seems like a fine line though; throw a headdress on em, some face paint and a slouchy shirt with some beadwork and there you go.

Is there a worry that we're appropriating a culture that remains essentially unrepresented in America?

Has anyone with a Native-themed tattoo ever received any feedback from a Native person?

How about some of the strictly graphic designs that have been popping up lately?

Should I have just not started this thread and leave the whole thing alone?

Sort of a big conversation to have but I'd really love to know what you all think.. or if you've even thought about it at all. Also, anyone know Jack Red Cloud's story? I think he's discussed in the McCabe NYC Tattoo book but I leant that out to a friend.

gougetheeyes likes this

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I live in oklahoma aswell and as shmitty says many white looking people are at least 1/16 indian and in the case of cherokee that means your legit and on the rolls. (vote and possibly get benefits from tribe) I am adopted My brothers are on rolls and vote and one of them is blonde haired. The tribes are really promoting indian arts as of late. I doubt someone would get one negative look for a tastefull naitive piece aside from a close minded person who decided long ago they hated tattoos.

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I think people just like the imagery. It's powerful.

Yeah, the weird ambivalence I feel with this kind of thing makes me think immediately of Pendleton blankets (and, more specifically their new Portland collection that just came out and caused a huge ruckus... my wife is into clothes.. a lot.. so I hear about things..) As far as designs go, this is actually what Pendleton did from the beginning; creating non-specific native-looking designs that appealed to both white folks and tribal people -- and were hugely successful for both -- and for many tribal people the blankets became important (and still are) for certain milestones, even though they weren't tribal specific.

Also, I have a buffalo head and skull with feathers tattoo, planning to add a couple other things to it and still want a native lady head tattoo. I just wondered if anyone had discussed these types of tattoos or if it's simply a non-issue at this point.

polliwog and Kev like this

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I do like the traditional american Native style tattoos, like a Sailor Jerry Native lookin' lady head. I purposefully have gotten nothing that could be taken as Native American for a reason though. The reason is specific to me though. Basically, my father's wife is native and I don't want anything to do with him or her. I don't want to answer questions to people who know he lives on a native reserve to be all "OMGGGG did you get that tatt cause of your dad" ugh.

As far as other people having them, well I don't give a fuck. It's like getting tribal tattoos that have nothing to do with Maori culture. If you get a tribal design that means something like you are a fertile woman ready to wed, and you're a guy well then you're the one who looks like a fucking tool. I guess that's like what was mentioned earlier about getting a lady head wearing war bonnet even though it's a man's accessory.

And yeah Gouge, the pendleton style, or southwestern or Navajo, whatever you wanna call it, has made a huge comeback for clothing last season and for spring 2012. You can get almost anything you can think of with a Pendleton or Native design on it right now. Wearing a pendleton coat or bag is totally different to me than being one of those asshole hipsters wearing a war bonnet to a fucking indie rock band show. That shit is lame.

I guess it all comes down to know what something means before permanently marking it onto yourself... or don't 'cause it's not like the general population knows anything about art or culture and the specifics of Native American symbology.

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Chad Koeplinger just posted a pic on twitter of a kind of hybrid crawling panther / native american design ... Worth checking out!

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Native American Lady head is probably my next tattoo. Tiger Lily from Peter Pan, man.

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Unfortunately, I don't really have anything to add to the discussion as such (due to being an Australian with very limited knowledge/understanding of native american culture) I do however have a kick ass tattoo to add (technically it's two, but you get the idea)

bengrillo3.jpg

Done by the always impressive Ben Leland-Grillo

Ben Leland-Grillo | Facebook

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I'm glad this thread poped up, I'm half Mohawk (Iroquois) And I've been trying to figure out how to represent this as a tattoo, I don't really consider my right arm in its current state to be an Indian tattoo like the others posted, but it does have it's subtle hints about my heritage. (the Raven skull for my raven totems).

I really like the Navajo tattoos that you guys posted, so vibrant. It defiantly hits the nail on the head about their culture. I think if anything it's almost a respect thing getting those if you aren't native American because it shows the love of the culture, and ways of the people.. And isn't the stereotypical Lady head.. (don't get me wrong their cool, but I'm not a real fan of the Indian ones.)

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I think if anything it's almost a respect thing getting those if you aren't native American because it shows the love of the culture, and ways of the people.

Seems to me (and this was kind of the original issue I wanted to pose) that it's actually the opposite and can be disrespectful because it's an outsider's two-second take on an entire culture that we just decided is "neat." Less a love of it, more a stereotyping of it. ..like Peter Pan. The lady head thing is kind of the worst offender, because it makes no sense -- but I still love those tattoos! I'm guessing it was never the point to be correct, just to draw a great design. And it certainly worked!

I'm glad there seems to be a generally positive response, especially what @Shmitty pointed out with the drawings at his station. And that PENDLETON PANTHER is pretty great! And Stitch, there are usually at least a few good books on the day-to-day of certain tribes from "back in the day" as well as their mythologies and adventure stories, which are awesome. Reading is an easy first step.

polliwog, Duffa and Zillah like this

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man!..... I worked at the ''End of the Trail'' for yrs,GTC ya know. plenty of native american stuff. Ive done gobs of those damn dream catchers. this chick came in the other day, where im at now and wanted one, and of course it had all kinds of personal deep meanings. In the middle of the little consultation ,(a.k.a., gettin em in the chair)I ended up yellin at the damn shop helper, and basically tellin him it was over ,(for stealing flash) she,the dream catcher , left ,freaked out , obviously because Im a jerk, I was relieved. Im really tired of them damn things. Does anyone know the origin of those things? I always thought they were kinda corny. something you picked up at that truck stop back there , next to all that other cheesy stuff that has nothing to do with anybodys culture ,except, that fabulous thing we call ''roadside''.

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Does anyone know the origin of those things? I always thought they were kinda corny. something you picked up at that truck stop back there , next to all that other cheesy stuff that has nothing to do with anybodys culture ,except, that fabulous thing we call ''roadside''.

Don't know where they got the term "dream catchers," but there's a Navaho story about spider woman giving a charm to a pair of twin war gods on a journey to find the sun. I don't have a first-hand story, but it actually pops up in Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces.

"She gave them a charm called 'feather of the alien gods,' which consisted of a hoop with two life-feathers (feathers plucked from a living eagle) attached, and another life-feather to preserve their existence." There was also a magic formula she taught them. I don't know if this was strictly a Navaho story or if there are similar stories from other tribes.

Don't know about you, but Feather of the Alien Gods sounds about ten thousand times cooler than dream catcher.

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''feather of the alien gods'' yeah I think Id rather draw that one. thanks brother , ya gotta dig Joseph Campbell. I dont know if anyone In this county Im in knows who that is.hehe

Don't know where they got the term "dream catchers," but there's a Navaho story about spider woman giving a charm to a pair of twin war gods on a journey to find the sun. I don't have a first-hand story, but it actually pops up in Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces.

"She gave them a charm called 'feather of the alien gods,' which consisted of a hoop with two life-feathers (feathers plucked from a living eagle) attached, and another life-feather to preserve their existence." There was also a magic formula she taught them. I don't know if this was strictly a Navaho story or if there are similar stories from other tribes.

Don't know about you, but Feather of the Alien Gods sounds about ten thousand times cooler than dream catcher.

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My brother is really into the Native American culture, even though my family has no ancestry. He has an animal totem on his forearm of a badger, a wolf and a hawk. He did some research as to what each animal meant spiritually, and ended up choosing those 3. He wants to finish off his forearm with a depiction of a rabbit smoking a pipe while a lynx (or some other predator) stalks it. This is a legend that does not have a clear origin. It's said to come from Cree, but there doesn't seem to be a large consensus. The rabbit is an intelligent and wily animal in Native American culture, so it sitting around smoking a pipe while it is being stalked shows that it is confident creature and that it can escape any trouble that comes after it. *I had to Google all that because I couldn't remember exactly what my brother had told me.

As far as any input from Native Americans on his tattoo and idea, it's non-existent. The north east USA doesn't have ancestry like that.

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Im so easily confused, ''the NE USA doesnt have ancestry like that'' huh...????? no native americans? wow, so...... uuuhhh.??

My brother is really into the Native American culture, even though my family has no ancestry. He has an animal totem on his forearm of a badger, a wolf and a hawk. He did some research as to what each animal meant spiritually, and ended up choosing those 3. He wants to finish off his forearm with a depiction of a rabbit smoking a pipe while a lynx (or some other predator) stalks it. This is a legend that does not have a clear origin. It's said to come from Cree, but there doesn't seem to be a large consensus. The rabbit is an intelligent and wily animal in Native American culture, so it sitting around smoking a pipe while it is being stalked shows that it is confident creature and that it can escape any trouble that comes after it. *I had to Google all that because I couldn't remember exactly what my brother had told me.

As far as any input from Native Americans on his tattoo and idea, it's non-existent. The north east USA doesn't have ancestry like that.

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A few months ago I read something on Yoni Zibler's blog about tattooing sacred Buddhist images on people, and how it can be offensive depending on the placement of the tattoos. I have no desire to shit on anyone's culture or heritage, but I also don't have the time or inclination to look into every aspect of every image that I get tattooed on me. I see things that I like, and I get them. I would never get something with the specific intention of offending someone, unless that someone was a Conservative Republican asshole. Some of the old flash (especially the WWII era) can be pretty racist, and that doesn't appeal to me. The same thing for some of the old biker flash, and swastikas. My personal opinion is that it is the intention of the wearer that matters more than anything else.

Here is the link to Yoni's blog. Tattooing & Art by Yoni Zilber

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@Avery Taylor

I've wondered about some of that biker flash you're talking about, Avery - what the context was, and how much people really thought about the significance of some of the symbols being used. I mean, it's not like it was Jondix using something in the context of an eastern repeat pattern, or whatever - it's the skulls, deaths heads, swastikas etc. I know there are a lot of traditional tattoo enthusiasts on here, but isn't that legacy fairly hard to celebrate?

I read a little about how it should be seen through a lense of tattooed people back then as outsiders and maybe an attempt at 'shock value' - but, would we accept the same argument today?

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@Avery Taylor

I've wondered about some of that biker flash you're talking about, Avery - what the context was, and how much people really thought about the significance of some of the symbols being used. I mean, it's not like it was Jondix using something in the context of an eastern repeat pattern, or whatever - it's the skulls, deaths heads, swastikas etc. I know there are a lot of traditional tattoo enthusiasts on here, but isn't that legacy fairly hard to celebrate?

I read a little about how it should be seen through a lense of tattooed people back then as outsiders and maybe an attempt at 'shock value' - but, would we accept the same argument today?

Watch "Stoney Knows How". He talks about the biker flash that he has drawn, his opinions on it, and its meaning. He is not a fan, but he is running a business, and you got to give them what they want. I love the biker flash that he drew, and I will probably get some in the future, but it is easy to drop the swastika out of most of the designs.

Personally I am too old to consider shock-value as a reason to do anything. That is for angry young men, and I am an angry old man.

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A Native American client put it in perspective the other day. She was looking around the shop and stopped at a sheet with some Pacific Northwest Native Designs. I asked her if she was interested in getting that type of tattoo, because I have a lot more reference in the back of that stuff. She replied "Anyone who takes a look at me can tell I'm Indian, I don't need a tattoo to say it, I want to get a Unicorn or a Pegasus, do you have any of those?" I told her we could draw one for her and she said "I've never been in a tattoo shop that didn't have a Pegasus or a unicorn on the wall." Fast forward, she leaves stoked with her bitching new tattoo.

First of all I want to know what shops she's been hanging out at, cause I want to see some awesome unicorn flash. Two I guess it makes sense, while lots of people get tattoos to represent their family cultures and background, others are looking to differentiate themselves and possibly even rebel against the common perceptions. I can see how some people could be sensitive towards stuff from their culture, but with all due respect if we all got tattoos based upon exactly who we are, we would all have the same tattoos (or else we would all have to join the navy or somehow turn Japanese). Look at most tattoo designs. So many animals tattoos are loosely based upon what they would look like in the wild, but very few would be a spot on accurate representation of the species nor is it really intended to be, plus I don't think they wear funny hats or smoke cigarettes either. It's tweaking old ideas that generate new ideas and keep old ideas fresh and new.

hogg, Duffa, Stitch626 and 4 others like this

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