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Cultural Contributions

Native Americans are a diverse people. There are more than 40 Native American languages, and varying tribes speak varying dialects of the languages. 

During early periods, many American Indians were hunter-gatherers or practiced agriculture. Some crops used today were introduced by Native Americans, including maize (corn), squash, pinto beans, tomatoes, potatoes, vanilla, strawberries, peanuts and bell peppers.

Native Americans are often depicted in traditional clothing, including a headdress, which carries much spiritual and symbolic significance. The headdress was not usually made in one sitting, but a feather would be added each time an important tribe member completed an act of bravery.  Wearing the headdress is still considered an honor in American Indian culture; it is often worn in weddings and other significant ceremonies. 

Native American art displays a vast array of talents. Known for their detailing and earth-toned colors, Native American jewelry, paintings, weavings, pottery, sculptures and basketry are among the finest pieces in the world's art collection. Much American Indian art and music is used in religious ceremonies.

Many American Indians continue the traditions of their ancestors in the performance arts. Here are some of American Indian artists whose work and talents can be seen in contemporary America today:

Classroom Resources

Smithsonian Education
This comprehensive website provides resources for teaching about Native American arts, history and culture.