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Native North American Art

Janet Catherine Berlo and Ruth B. Phillips

Publication Date - November 1998

ISBN: 9780192842183

304 pages

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $27.95

An innovative new survey of Native North American art history


This exciting investigation explores the indigenous arts of the US and Canada from the early pre-contact period to the present day, stressing the conceptual and iconographic continuities over five centuries and across an immensely diverse range of regions. The richness of Native American art is emphasized through discussions of basketry, wood and rock carvings, dance masks, and beadwork, alongside the contemporary vitality of paintings and installations by modern artists such as Robert Davidson, Emmi Whitehorse, and Alex Janvier. Authors Berlo and Philips fully incorporate substantive new research and scholarship, and examine such issues as gender, representation, the colonial encounter, and contemporary arts. By encompassing both the sacred and secular, political and domestic, the ceremonial and commercial, Native North American Art shows the importance of the visual arts in maintaining the integrity of spiritual, social, political, and economic systems within Native North American societies.


  • Ranges from the early pre-contact period to the present day
  • Establishes the importance of the visual arts in maintaining the integrity of spiritual, social, political, and economic systems within Native North American societies

About the Author(s)

Janet Catherine Berlo is the Susan B. Anthony Chair of Gender and Women's Studies and Professor of Art History at the University of Rochester, New York.
Ruth Phillips is Director of the Museum of Anthropology and Professor of Fine Art and Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada


"The best guide yet to understanding the complexities of Native North American art....a solidly ground, sophisticated history, combining art history, anthropology, and cultural studies...splendidly well-written...useful and timely."--Gerald McMaster, Curator of Art, Canadian Museum of Civilization

"An outstanding new volume in the Oxford History of Art series. Designed to introduce readers to the depth and diversity of Native regional art, it is also a highly readable introduction to Native North American history and anthropology."--Foreword

"A fine statement, covering in fewer than 300 pages the artistic output of most Native American tribes across the northern hemisphere over a period of more than eight centuries.... Illustrations are especially fresh, varied, and well chosen."--Library Journal

"Nicely organized and clearly written-- very good illustrations."--Pat McDonald, Calhoun Community College

"This book has it all--a fresh, readable style, wonderful supporting photos and diagrams, and it's inexpensive. Berlo and Phillips also present a holistic view of Native American Art--just as it should be. Brava!"--Helen Barnes, Wichita State University

"An excellent textbook--politically aware and well-written. An especially good bibliographic essay. One of the best aspects of this text is the integration of arts from all periods--ancient through contemporary."--Matthew Looper, California State University at Chico

"An excellent book which includes information on various ethical issues surrounding the collection, display, and documentation of native American arts."--Maude Wahlman, University of Missouri, Kansas City

Table of Contents

    Chapter 1: An Introduction to the Indigenous Arts of North America Art History and Native Art; What is 'Art'? Western Discourses and Native American Objects; Modes of Appreciation: Curiosity, Specimen, Artefact, and Art; What is an Indian? Clan, Community, Political Structure, and Art; Cosmology; The Map of the Cosmos; The Nature of Spirit; Dreams and the Vision Quest; Shamanism; Art and the Public Celebration of Power; The Power of Personal Adornment; 'Creativity is our Tradition': Innovation and Tradition in Native American Art; Gender and the Making of Art
    Chapter 2: The Southwest The Southwest as a Region; The Ancient World; From the Colonial Era to the Modern Pueblos; Navajo and Apache Arts
    Chapter 3: The East The East as a Region; Hunting Cultures, Burial Practices, and Early Woodlands Art Forms; Mississippian Art and Culture; The Cataclysm of Contact: the Southeast; The Early Contact Period in the Northeast; Arts of the Middle Ground; Arts of Self-Adornment
    Chapter 4: The West Introduction; The Great Plains; The Intermontaine Regionan Artistic Crossroads; The Far West: Arts of California and the Great Basin
    Chapter 5: The North Geography, Environment, and Language in the North; Sub-Arctic Clothing: Art to Honour and Protect; The Arctic
    Chapter 6: The Northwest Coast Origins; The Early Contact Period; Styles and Techniques; Western Connoisseurship and Northwest Coast Art; Shamanism; Crest Art; The Potlatch; Art, Commodity, and Concepts of Replication; Northwest Coast Art in the Twentieth Century
    Chapter 7: The Twentieth Century: Trends in Modern Native Art Questions of Definition; Commoditization and Contemporary Art; Moments of Beginning; The Southern Plains and the Kiowa Five; The Southwest and the 'Studio' Style; The Display and Marketing of American Indian Art: Exhibitions, Mural Projects, and Competitions; Native American Modernisms 195080; Institutional Frameworks and Modernisms in Canada; Postmodernism, Installation, and other Post-Studio Art
    Notes List of Illustrations Bibliographic Essay Timeline Index