Traditional American Indian Masks

Published on January 30, 2012 by Casey

Love this article and want to save it to read again later? Add it to your favourites! To find all your favourite posts, check out My Favourites on the menu bar.

Native american masks
Native american masks

Traditional American Indian Masks

Masks have a long tradition with Native Americans. The use of Indian masks varied from tribe to tribe. American Indian masks are still used for decorations, dances and cultural performances today. Traditional Native American masks, whether relics or those made by modern artists, have an inherent beauty, which can be terrifying, silly or spiritual.

dna testing, dna ancestry testing, ancestry, genealogy, indian genealogy records, paternity testing, turquoise jewelry, native american jewelry

Northwest Coast Tribes

The Northwest Coast Indian tribes are famous for making totem poles. However, they also made masks that set the standards for other Native American masks. Even though each tribe in this group had its own individual nuances, the tribes’ masks also had similarities that made their masks immediately identifiable as being Northwest Coast Indian.

Northwest Coast Native Americans made three kinds of masks: the single face mask, the mechanical mask and transformation masks. The single face mask was the simplest of the group. It was carved from one solid piece of red cedar.

The mechanical mask had moveable parts. This type of mask was developed after Europeans had made contact with Native Americans. American Indians had not yet developed string or hinges that were needed to make this type of mask.

Transformation masks consisted of two and sometimes three masks. When closed, a transformation mask made from two masks showed a bird or an animal. When open, a mask of a man appeared.

The Hopis

The Hopis are well known for their kachina dolls. The Hopis also made kachina masks for traditional dances. When dancers wore their masks and costumes, they became “channels” to the kachina spirits, essentially becoming the spirits themselves. When not in use, Kachina masks were treated as if they were human. The masks were stored so that they could breathe and were also fed corn pollen so that they wouldn’t be hungry.

The most recognizable kachina mask today would be the helmet mask. The Hopi made other types of kachina masks, such as leather masks, half-masks, spherical masks and circular masks. The colors used to paint the masks indicated the direction from which the kachina came. Special symbols showed which particular kachina the mask represented.

The Iroquois

The Iroquois are well known for their “False Face Society” masks. The False Face Society was a prominent medicinal and healing society. False face masks were only used for important religious ceremonies.
False face masks have found their way into museums and into private hands. Since traditional Iroquois consider these masks to be living beings and not inanimate objects, tribal leaders are trying to recover these masks so that the masks can be properly revered.

Source: life123 Unabridged
Based on the collective work of, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
Cite This Source | Link To Traditional American Indian Masks
Add these citations to your bibliography. Select the text below and then copy and paste it into your document.

American Psychological Association (APA):

Traditional American Indian Masks Unabridged. Retrieved May 23, 2015, from website:

Chicago Manual Style (CMS):

Traditional American Indian Masks Unabridged. Native American Encyclopedia (accessed: May 23, 2015).

Modern Language Association (MLA):

"Traditional American Indian Masks" Unabridged. Native American Encyclopedia 23 May. 2015. <>.

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE):, "Traditional American Indian Masks" in Unabridged. Source location: Native American Encyclopedia Available: Accessed: May 23, 2015.

BibTeX Bibliography Style (BibTeX)

@ article {NativeAmericanEncyclopedia.com2015,
    title = { Unabridged},
    month = May,
    day = 23,
    year = 2015,
    url = {},
You might also like:

Tags:  ,

Facebook Comments

You must be logged in to post a comment.