Published on March 26, 2013 by Casey
Masks are another kind of headgear used by many Native American tribes from Alaska to Argentina. In most tribes, masks are used for religious rituals or festivals, but there are nearly as many different American Indian mask-making traditions as there are American Indian tribes. We have a separate page of Native American masks that you may like to visit to learn more about the diversity of tribal masks, but here are photographs of a few of the most common types. Plains Indians typically crafted simple animal masks from the heads or skulls of important animals such as the buffalo bull, bear or wolf. Most tribes carved masks from wood and decorated them with leather and fur, like the Hopi kachina dance mask below. In some of the northwestern tribes, mask makers carved particularly complex hinged transformation masks that opened when a cord was pulled to reveal a second face within the first one. Metal masks were rare in North America but some South American tribes, like the Inca tribe, created beautiful beaten gold and silver masks. And in some eastern tribes like the Seneca and Tuscarora tribes, making false face masks is considered such a sacred ritual that no one is allowed to take photographs of them.
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