Indian Tattoo
30 Most Popular Indian Feather Tattoos

The Blackfoot Indian Tattoos

Looking for Blackfoot Indian tattoos? Want to know about all the different types of Indian tattoos available? Read our guide for more information on choosing the right tattoo for you …

Variety of Blackfoot Indian Tattoos

Tattooing among the Blackfoot Indians was documented by early explorers and adventurers. There are, however, few pictorial representations of Blackfoot Indian tattoos. Thus it is difficult for modern society to identify with certainty what these tattoos resembled. From evidence gathered through the writings and journals of explorers and adventurers, the tattoos were part of the body art of warriors in the Blackfoot Indian tribe. The tattoos were generally on the forehead and the cheeks and made the warriors look fearsome and intimidating.

Blackfoot Indian tattoos were also for identifying members of one tribe with their family and band. Distinguishing tattoo marks were permanent and this made identification easier, especially during the frenzy of a battle. When the Blackfoot Indian warriors went to war with other tribes in the Great Plains, their tattoos were symbols of bravery and courage. These tattoos differentiated them from warriors of other tribes who were also tattooed.

The figures and lines on the faces of Blackfoot Indian tattoos on warriors may have been protective in nature as well. Blackfoot Indian practiced a type of shamanic religion which is regarded as a living religion that included sacred artifacts which were propitiated during ceremonial rites. The belief of the living religion was that natural creations, such as trees and animals, had spirits which should be appeased or propitiated or negotiated with.

Blackfoot Indian tattoos are vital parts of the cultural heritage of the Blackfoot Indian community, although the art of traditional tattooing died away as the tribe became more assimilated to the European way of life. The practice of tattooing is rarely followed by the members of the modern Blackfoot Indian community in keeping with the current culture of not having large visible body art that is permanent.

It is vital for any present member of the Blackfoot Indian community, who wants to have a traditional tattoo done, to search for elders in the community to seek guidance on the correct tattoos that reflect the ancestral culture of the community. If wrongly tattooed, the bearer of the tattoo may have symbols that come from other tribes instead of his own.

Blackfoot Indian tattoos are part of the cultural identity of members of the Blackfoot community. They form a vital link to the rich past of this brave tribe.

The History Of Henna The Tattoo Design

The history of henna tattoo design spans many decades and cultures. The alternative to permanent body art has made a come back in popularity.

From tiny roses on shoulders to full body motifs, tattos have made their way into the American mainstream as a modern genre of artistic expression. The lure of treating the body as a canvas has taken its hostages, but some refuse to let the art form’s virtues cast a shadow of doubt on its evils.

For those who find etching into the skin with a needle equivalent to Medieval torture, or for those who are too commitment -shy to consent to a lifelong branding, an ancient practice can provide the same artistic fulfillment without the pain or permanence.

Henna tattooing, recently made popular by Madonna, Demi Moore and other performers, has become all the rage in America and Great Britain. With a mixture of simple paste and a little creativity, it is possible to imprint the surface of your skin with a masterpiece that fades away gradually in up to six weeks. “Henna tattoos look nice and you don’t have to be stuck with it the rest of your life,” said Eve Day, an artist who applies Henna tattoos professionally.

Henna, otherwise known as mendhi, is a tall, shrub-like plant that grows in hot, dry climates. It is grown mostly in Sudan, Egypt, India, most North African countries and Middle Eastern countries. The leaves of the plant are ground into a powder and made into a paste, which, when applied to the skin, leaves an orange stain. After about 24 hours, the orange dye darkens to reddish-brown and then begins to fade as the skin renews itself. “People have been painting each other for thousands of years,” Day said. “Henna tattooing is just being reborn in America.”

Before the recorded introduction of henna; Hindu, Buddhist, and other Indian women used dyes from the fruits of Laksa tress to stain the palms of their hands and soles of their feet. According to Guatama Vajracharya, professor of art history at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, women wore these tattoos decoratively every day. “Widows, as a sign of mourning, did not wear them,” Vajracharya said.

According to Vajracharya, Henna was introduced by Muslims and quickly replaced Laksa. The henna plant, said Vajracharya, was easier to find and grow. During the 16th century, henna’s popularity expanded through Pakistan and North India by the Moguls. Females used henna to decorate their bodies for ceremonies, especially weddings.

In Middle Eastern cultures, henna tattooing is still a whole day affair during which the new bride gets to know the groom’s mother and sisters. It is a celebratory, rather than a spiritual, ritual, equivalent to the pre-wedding makeover and manicure of Western brides.

Henna tattoos traditionally fell into four distinctive styles, according to Aileen Marron, author of “The Henna Body Art Book.” The Middle Eastern style consisted mostly of floral patterns inspired by Arabic carvings, paintings and textiles. This casual style did not usually follow a specific pattern. The North American style accentuated the shape of the feet and hands using geometric floral patterns.

The Indian and Pakistani designs extend beyond the hands and feet to create the illusion of gloves and stockings. These were made up of intricate, repetitive paisley patterns, lines, and teardrops. Finally, the Indonesian or Southeast Asian styles were a mix of Indian and Middle Eastern designs with blocks of color on the tips of fingers and toes.

All four traditional styles remain popular today, but have expanded under the influence of many different cultures. Celtic designs are the most popular, according to Day. Celtic designs typically take the form of bands and knots.

Day began applying henna tattoos professionally in 1996 after it started to become popular on the East and West coasts. “I did it on myself and I really enjoyed it,” she said. “As an artist, I found it to be a nice new outlet.”

Days love of detailed work and encouragement from her Hindu friends led her to incorporate henna tattooing into her work. “They thought it was wonderful that I was interested in other cultures - it’s a good way to mix things together in a new culture,” Day said. “I’ve always had a positive approach to it.”

Henna’s popularity, according to Day, can be attributed to the fact that it is temporary and painless. “You have the option of getting one and then deciding whether you like it,” she said. “If you don’t like it, you can keep changing it.” The summer months bring the most business because people like to be able to show off their body décor. In the winter, Hindu women still get henna tattoos for celebrations, such as weddings, birthdays and the arrival of a new baby.

While the explosion of Eastern styles in the Western culture has brought some discomfort about its commercialization, Day has found nothing but encouragement.

"It’s a nice way to get to know other cultures," she said. "It can enrich the American culture."

Application of a henna tattoo can take anywhere from a half-hour to several hours. The amount of time depends on the location - hands and feet take the longest - and the amount of detail. How long the designs last on the skin depends how people take care of them. To prolong a design, Day suggests keeping the area moisturized. “Avoid chlorine at all costs.” The skin should not be scrubbed, exfoliated or rubbed unless you want to hurry the fading process. It is also advises that you avoid harsh soaps and saunas.

Day encourages people to experiment with henna. “It is a wonderful art that should be kept alive!”

The Body Art in India from Traditional to Modern

There are two distinct tattoo cultures in India. The most prominent is from the Hindu community which is based on a caste system even though this system is declining. These tattoos usually signify the subordinate position of women from within this social structure.

Indian woman with tattoos on her face.

Thanks to Meena Kadri for this image.

Certain tattoos on Indian women can also represent fertility or to ward off bad spirits. Young women were often encouraged to be tattooed as it was believed to add to their attractiveness.

Traditional Indian tattoos on hand.

Thanks to Meena Kadri for this image.

There are many different tattoo symbols within the Hindu tradition such as:

Lotus blossoms - Associated with happiness.

Swastika - An ancient symbol which is opposite to the nazi swastika.

Dots - These are quite common and are believed to ward off the evil eye.

Traditional Indian tattoos on leg.

Thanks to Meena Kadri for this image.

Hindu men were generally tattooed less than women particularly if they were of a higher caste. Tattoo designs such as the scorpion were done to attract good luck. In the larger urban areas lower caste men were heavily tattooed with a mixture of Western style tattoos alongside more traditional Indian tattoos.

Modern Indian tattoos being done on young men.

India has experienced massive growth in the past few years particularly in the information technology sector. This boom in technology and rapid modernization has brought changes in the lifestyles of many Indian who not only want to retain their Indian culture but also want to have modern Western culture. As a result India is experiencing a surge of interest in Western tattoo culture.

The Indian Tattoos - A Glimpse of Varied Art Forms

Tattoos may have now emerged as a new style statement for the world. In India, the tradition was there for generations and the glimpses of it can be found in every tribal cult of India, especially in Rajasthan. The ancient way of body piercing along with simple body tattooing has evolved in a massive way to result in the present fashion of tattooing. The designs of tattoos vary from scary pictures to very cupid designs. It is this vast range of design that enable people to resort to tattoos of their choice.

In India, this art has now been refined to give it a form that is most congenial to all. It is not at all surprising to find in every streets of India, someone to do tattooing for you. It is this feasibility that has made Tattooing so common a phenomenon in India. The tattoos that have been brought to picture are classified for men and women. The most beautiful women of the world have tattoos on them and this has set in a new trend of tattooing.

The tattoos of Rajasthan have a wide array and is known for its tattoo machines, tattoo ink, tattooing techniques, tattoo equipments, grips and tips, needles and bars. So, tattooing in India has attained a new high as there is immense scope of innovation in this field. ‘Henna tattoos’ is a complete new package only found in India. This has added to the fashion industry as henna is now being used in bridal ceremonies, individual and corporate events, marriage and birthday ceremonies, special ceremonies and festivals.

Rita Jain is a well known website author and is acclaimed for writing a lot on heritage destinations of India. She has recently written a lot of articles about Heritage monuments of India and stay committed to en-lighting us with her ideas and experiences. This article is just one of her many contributions.

The Tribal American Indian Tattoo - Tips on Getting Your New Tattoo!

Are you thinking about getting a new tribal American Indian tattoo? Read on to find out what you need to know before you get your new ink.

The design you choose will be very important, especially because it will permanently be inked on your body. Before actually going to the tattoo artist to get this done you need to spend some time searching for the perfect image. Make sure that you don’t just say “eh this one is good enough”. Once you see the right design you will know; there won’t be any hesitation. If this happens you will absolutely love your new tattoo and will have a big grin on your face as you show it off to your friends.

This may seem like it will take a lot of time and effort, but in actuality it won’t. You can take an easy method and look at images on Google, but chances are it will not be original. Most times, someone else would have already chosen one of those images that you have found.

If you really want a nice original tattoo, limit yourself to strictly tattoo websites that have a large database of unique designs. Most of these websites will only offer these designs to their members only, and yes there is a fee to be a member. However, the fee is small and it will be well worth the money. These websites can also even give reviews of different tattoo parlors, so making your decision of where to get inked will be made easier.

If you decide to take the time to do research on this topic, you will not regret the tattoo that you end up with. It will be exactly what you want and you will be happy with it.

Good luck on your new tribal American Indian tattoo!

The Apache Indian

The Apache Indians are perhaps one of the best-known tribes in America. The Apache Indians lived in Arizona and northern Mexico. They were thought of as a commanding tribe with fierce warriors who were constantly fighting against the white man. The Apache and the Navajo spoke a similar dialect from the language known as Athabaskan.

The Apache Indians were nomadic, meaning they moved frequently. They lived almost completely off the buffalo, including using buffalo skins for clothing and tent covers. They were among the first Indian tribe to learn to ride horses.

One of the best-known Apache Indians of all time was Geronimo. Geronimo was among the last Indians fighting against the federal government. The Apache Indians were known to have indomitable wills and Geronimo is a great example of that. He was seen as aggressive and courageous, something the Apaches took pride in. In 1875, all Apaches were ordered to a reservation. Geronimo escaped numerous times. He returned, but only because he surrendered, never because law was able to capture him. The last time Geronimo escaped, he eluded capture for over a decade by fleeing to Mexico. Reports say that it took over 5,000 United States troops, 500 scouts, and perhaps as many as 3,000 Mexicans to find him in his mountain hideout. Geronimo fled again, upon hearing rumors of Apache Indian imprisonment, trials, and hangings. In 1886 however, he surrendered to General Nelson Miles when he heard that his brother-in-law, Juh, was captured.

Another well-known Apache was Cochise. He was the leader of the Chokonen band of the Chiricahua Apaches. Cochise too was seen as fierce, leading resistance against both Mexicans and Americans in the 19th century. Like Geronimo, Cochise was able to escape from capture until finally winning the right to stay on a reservation in Arizona, rather than New Mexico, like the government wanted.

Today, there are between 5,000 and 6,000 Apache Indians living on reservations in Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma.

The Lakota Indians

The Lakota Indians are a tribal Native America group that resides in the northern part of the United States. Native Americans are considered the first nation of North America. Although a large number of Indians have immersed themselves into American culture, several tribal groups carry out their daily affairs on Indian reservations. The Lakota Indian’s primary location is in South Dakota and North Dakota. Furthermore, this particular Indian tribe speaks the Lakota language, which is a dialect of the Sioux tribal group.

The number of Lakota Indians is slightly lower than other tribal groups. Today, there are only about 70,000 registered Lakota Indians. Less than half of these continue to speak the ancestral language. The Lakota Indians can be traced back to the Lewis and Clark expedition. During this time, the Lakota Indian tribe accompanied much of the Great Plains. Because of ongoing warfare, the tribal group was forced northward, and settled in the Dakotas.

The majority of the Lakota Indians reside on one of five Indian reservations situated in the Dakotas. Furthermore, Montana and parts of Canada also have a large Lakota population. While living within the boundaries of the reservation, the Lakota Indians are governed by their own set of laws. Hence, the tribal group has a separate political system, police department, education system, etc.

The Lakota Indians have strong cultural and spiritual ties. For the most part, the Indians strive to preserve their way of life. From youth, parents train their children in the values and morals of their tribal group. In an effort to better understand their background, many Indian-Americans of Lakota descent may acquire resourceful information on the Lakota Indians, as well as visit the Lakota Indian reservation. This is a great way to become knowledgeable of the philosophy, customs, and history of the Lakota tribal group.

The American Indian Tattoos

Not every American Indian symbol or icon makes a great-looking tattoo. Who wants to have a permanent symbol on their body that is inappropriate, or that is not tasteful? There are a few American Indian symbols that lend themselves to tattoo art very naturally. By choosing one of the following, you can carry a potentially powerful, spiritual reminder with you no matter where you go:

Natural forces. Symbols that stand for natural forces usually have a deeper meaning and can encourage you to take on some positive characteristics. A sun, for example, is a lifegiver, and stands for warmth, growth, and wellness. If you have a sun symbol for a tattoo, you may gaze at it during moments of frustration and remember to exude an aura of warmth during stress. Clouds and lightning stand for change, renewal, and fertility; an American Indian tattoo that incorporates one of these natural forces could give you strength during times of uncertainty. Spirits. While you should always be careful not to choose a tattoo symbol that is disrespectful of American Indian religion, designing a tattoo with a spiritual theme can be a sign of awareness. A yeii, or Rainbow Man, is a symbol of harmony and can demonstrate your commitment to encouraging all creatures to work together for the greater good. A simple hand is a representation of all that man has accomplished throughout history. Feathers. Feathers have many possible meanings. They can stand for warrior characteristics, prayer, or the Creator. It is also possible to use very beautiful colors in an American Indian feather tattoo, which makes this type of icon a natural choice. Animals. If you have always had a connection with a particular animal, a small American Indian representation of that animal is a great tattoo idea. Because animals often have innate characteristics, you can also use the tattoo to symbolize your own personality or character traits.
The America’s Tattooed Indian Kings

In April 1710, four “Indian Kings” representing the Five Nations Confederacy of the Iroquois (Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga, and Mohawk) traveled across the Great Water to visit the court of Her Majesty Queen Anne in London. These Iroquois sachems, or civil chiefs, hoped to secure British military support against the marauding French and their Indian allies (Algonquin, Montagnais, and Huron) in Canada, and to ask for missionaries to come to New York State and instruct their people. Although Native Americans had visited England before (e.g., Pocahontas in 1616), none had ever been treated as royalty on a state visit!

The “Four Indian Kings,” as they were known in England, caused a real sensation in old London town. They were celebrated and honored everywhere they went, and as foreign dignitaries of state the Indian Kings were given a Grand Tour of London, including a performance of Shakespeare’s MacBeth and a visit to the Royal Opera. They also attended a “trial of skill with sword” between two fighting Englishmen and visited the Cockpit Royal, where they witnessed the “Royal Sport” of cockfighting firsthand.

A large collection of historical documentation survives that recounts their memorable visit including numerous versions of their speech to Queen Anne, other published accounts of their visitation, some 30 portraits of the Kings in the form of engravings and miniatures, and four portrait oil paintings. For us, and from the standpoint of tattoo artistry, these oils are important because they accurately depict - perhaps for the first time in Western history - the facial and body tattoo of the Iroquois and neighboring Mahican.

Of the four Indian Kings, only three were actually tattooed. Two tattooed sachems were Mohawk (Ho Nee Yeath Taw No Row and Sa Ga Yeath Qua Pieth Tow) and one (Etow Oh Koam or John) was Mahican, a tribe that was loosely allied to the Five Nations Confederacy. In each portrait, the clan totem of each King (wolf, bear, turtle) is represented standing near the base of the canvas. Moreover, all three Kings are presented with their weapons; these symbols attest to their success and prowess on the field of battle. The portrait of Etow Oh Koam is significant because it is the only known portrait of an 18th century Mahican chief. Sa Ga Yeath Qua Pieth Tow, also known as Brant, was the grandfather of Joseph Brant, the prominent Mohawk war chief who later settled the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford, Ontario. Today this reserve is the most populous in Canada and the largest Iroquois reservation in Canada and the United States.


Sa Ga Yeath Qua Pieth Tow, or Brant, a Mohawk war chief with musket in hand. His belt is decorated with black, red, and white dyed moosehair or porcupine quills. His moccasins are decorated with red and tan quills and tied with red ribbons. He has downy white feathers by each ear, red ribbons hanging from his right ear, and has a powderhorn on a red cord. Behind him is a bear representing his clan. Painting by John Verelst, 1710.
Full color close-up of Brant.

Reconstruction of Brant’s facial tattoos.


Ho Nee Yeath Taw No Row, or John of Canajoharie, a Mohawk sachem with bow in hand. Behind him is a wolf, representing his clan. Painting by John Verelst, 1710.
Reconstruction of John’s facial tattoos.

Good Peter, Oneida, aged 75, showing fine tattooed pattern in gray on neck and chest. His earlobe is pierced and stretched to hold an ornament. His head is shaved except for a scalplock. Miniature oil painting by John Trumbull, 1792.

Iroquois and Mahican Tattoo

According to Jesuit documents, Iroquois and Mahican tattoo designs were first stenciled on the skin and then pricked into the flesh with trade needles or little bones until the blood flowed. Then, crushed charcoal (or sometimes red cinnabar) was vigorously rubbed into the open wounds.

Iroquois women, however, were rarely tattooed. But when they did, the purpose was usually medicinal, as a remedy to cure toothache or rheumatism. According to the Jesuit priest Lafitau, these women “content themselves with having a little branch of foliage traced along the jaw. They claim that the nerve by which the humour flows over the teeth is thus pricked, so that it can no longer fall there and that thus they cure the pain by going to the source of the ill.”

Iroquois men tattooed to signify achievement on the field of battle, including cross-hatches on the face to record successful military expeditions, or other small marks on the thighs to indicate the number of enemies killed. According to a Jesuit relation of 1663, one Iroquois war-chief bore 60 tattoo marks on one thigh alone! Many other markings, which have lost their meaning and function, were placed upon the face and body, although some were probably totemic.

Nevertheless, nearly all Iroquois men’s tattoos were distinct to them. According to the account book of Dutch trader Evert Wendell dated August 13, 1706, “a young Seneca, living in Canosedaken, his name Tan Na Eedsies,” visited Wendell in Albany, New York and completed his transaction by drawing a pictograph next to his order. This drawing identified Tan Na Eedsies, and the tattooed patterns on his face, neck, and chest were considered equivalent to his personal signature.


The Fate of the Indian Kings and Five Nations

An entry from the 1695-1726 account book of Evert Wendell, the Dutch trader to the Indians living in Albany, New York. This entry, written in Dutch, is dated August 13, 1706 and shows the portrait of the Seneca Indian Tan Na Eedsies. This drawing worked as his personal signature, identifying him by the tattooed patterns on his face, neck, and chest.

America’s Tattooed Indian Kings returned to Boston on July 15, 1710. Although the sachems had witnessed “the Grandeur, Pleasure and Plenty” of the British nation, Brant soon died after his return from London. And as history would have it, both Nicholas and John faded into obscurity. Nothing more is known of them.

In the summer of 1711, however, a massive British military expedition involving some 12,000 American colonists and 800-odd Native Americans from the Five Nations did set sail from Boston in 60 transports and 9 man-of-war. Their destination was the French stronghold of Quebec; the palisaded city that was the key station to the important trade routes on the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes. Unfortunately, in the darkness and swift currents of the St. Lawrence, several of the British ships ran aground on the Île-aux-Oeufs and the expedition was abandoned.

Although the memory of their visit was to be documented well into the 19th century, the Kings’ trip to London had little significance in the broader scope of American history. French power persisted in Canada until the fall of Montreal in 1760. And with the Treaty of Paris in 1763, the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes region were opened to English settlement. Ironically, the westward movement of colonists towards Iroquois lands led to the eventual collapse of the Five Nations. And after 1763, a series of military, political, and economic disasters compounded these and other problems.

During the American Revolution, the Iroquois Confederacy at first attempted to remain neutral. But as time wore on, it was evident that a course of action had to be taken and the member tribes had to pick allies. Many of the Mohawks chose to side with the British, as did the Onondagas, Cayugas and Senecas. But the Oneidas were sympathetic to the Americans. Being unable to reach a consensus, the Iroquois League disbanded in 1777 and each Nation was left to pursue its own fate.

Of course, the Americans won their independence from Britain and from 1783 to 1797 most Iroquois tribes were deprived of their land and of their diplomatic and military power under the effective sovereignty of the United States. Soon thereafter the Iroquois were confined to a few small reservations in the United States and Canada, many of which exist today.

Works cited

Bond, Richmond P.
1952 Queen Anne’s American Kings. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Lafitau, Father Joseph F.
1977 Customs of the American Indians Compared with the Customs of Primitive Times, 1724 (2 vols.). Toronto: The Champlain Society.

Thwaites, Reuben G. (ed.)
1896-1901 The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, 1610-1791 (73 vols.). Cleveland: Burrows Brothers.