Native American Art Lesson for Kids: History & Facts

Instructor: Jennifer Lowery

Jennifer has taught elementary levels K-3 and has master's degrees in elementary education and curriculum/instruction and educational leadership.

In this lesson, learn about different forms of Native American art, find out how this artwork used natural resources and materials and discover how pieces were used in everyday living.

Native Art History

Throughout history, Native Americans have created beautiful pieces of art that have served many purposes. Many of these pieces have survived thousands of years and have been discovered as artifacts. Native American artifacts include pottery, woven items, sculptures and special paintings. Let's explore the different types of art created by Native Americans many years ago.


Around 2,000 years ago, native people living in what is now North America began to settle down, thanks to farming. Growing crops meant people could stay in one spot, instead of moving around in order to find food. But this led to a storage problem: where to put grains, seeds and water needed for farming. Native Americans came up with an artistic solution by creating pottery, like jars and containers, into which they carved designs and later painted with vivid colors.

Native American pottery was used for practical purposes, but these pieces also had artistic designs.


Another form of Native American art was weaving. Native artists used wool from sheep to weave blankets and rugs, and some of these woven materials were used for clothing. Often the wool was dyed or colored to create interesting designs. These designs often included diamond shapes or geometric patterns.

Native Americans also made baskets by weaving reeds together, and these were used for practical purposes. Like pottery, baskets were used to store items. They could also be used to carry many objects at a time, so they were perfect for gathering items like fruits and nuts. Designs were often created when weaving reeds of different colors.


One item that probably comes to mind when thinking about Native American art is the totem pole, which were created by coastal peoples in the Pacific Northwest. Totem poles were tall wooden structures that were carved and painted and often represented images of animals or spirits. Many totem poles were created to represent the different generations and history of specific families. Most often, men were the ones to carve totem poles, although now many women and children are also skilled at carving them.

Totem poles often included carved and painted images of animals.

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