Native American Masks – Secret Societies and Symbols

Published on May 15, 2014 by Amy

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Native American Masks
Native American Masks

Native American masks masks are beautiful, mysterious, frightening, silly … the purpose of masks, as with most things associated with the Native cultures, vary from tribe to tribe – some spiritual, some healing, some for entertaining. Native Americans had a deep relationship with animals in their environment and adopted the “spirit” of various animals to help them on their life’s quest. It was believed that when a person put on a mask for ceremonies, the spirit of the animal depicted in the mask entered the person wearing it and share in the spirit/power of that animal. Some masks were portrait masks, intended to portray an important figure. Some were used by a culture’s secret society, for instance a war society or a healing society. Some were worn by shamans. Some were used in the Northwest Coast’s potlatch ceremonies.

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The Cherokee would craft their Native American masks from gourds for storytelling. This crafting has dramatically decreased with the forced removal of the Cherokee from their traditional lands and the gourds used to make the masks were unavailable in the new locations.

Collecting or Purchasing of Native American masks…

  • To ensure authenticity, visit reputable galleries.
  • Carvings are generally signed by the carver.
  • Purchased on-line from site guaranteeing authenticity in writing.
  • Authentic carvings are carved from wood, not plastic or resin.
  • It is a one-of-a-kind piece.
  • If the details are too perfect with straight sides or perfectly flat bottom, it is probably not authentic.
  • There will be a vast price difference between authentic and a knock-off.
  • Some knock-offs will be made from wood or a wood composite. If there are other pieces that are too similar, they were probably mass-produced.
  • Source: support-native-american-art Unabridged
    Based on the collective work of, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
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    "Native American Masks – Secret Societies and Symbols" Unabridged. Native American Encyclopedia 29 May. 2015. <>.

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