I have been looking for examples of historical tattoos of the Indigenous peoples of North America, some might refer to these peoples as Indians, Native Americans, Inuit, Eskimo, Aboriginal, or Indigenous. But the truth is all of these terms puts many nations under one name and denies the fact that many nations still live on the land that makes up North America, and they still have rights to the lands that were stolen from them. I am trying to uncover as many resources for the Indigenous peoples of this land to help in the reclaiming of their tattoos practices. Not as a resource for examples for tribal tattoos but for those who have historical connections to these cultural identifying marks which were and are going to be etched into the skin of Indigenous peoples.
One of the people who did early renderings of Canadian Aboriginal tattoos was Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur. These are his prints which show Indigenous tattoos of early Canada.
I previously posted an article about the story of Yaari Kingeekuk a Yupik artist who lives and works in Alaska as a cultural teacher and educator, and who is embodying her culture with traditional tattoos. I have gained her permission to post a few photos of her. Another Indigenous person in the process engaging the hegemonic ideal of beauty by tattooing the face. As I was looking over the pictures I have been able to acquire, both historical and contemporary of Indigenous people with facial tattoos I am struck by the beauty that is Indigenous facial tattooing. I know it doesn’t really fit into the mainstream conception of beauty, because it seems the face is the last holy place when it comes to contemporary tattooing. But if you get the chance look over the pictures and admire the beauty that is embodied in them.
While searching the Canada Archives website I found these amazing paintings by John Verelst, the first painting is entitled. Sagayenkwaraton (baptized Brant). Named Sa Ga Yeath Qua Pieth Tow, King of the Maquas (Mohawk) It depicts a Mohawk King with an amazing example of the rich history of Tattooing in North America among its Indigenous peoples. Verelst has painted tattoos on the arms, chest and face of Sagayenkwaraton
As I was researching online the other day I found these amazing photos taken in 1937 by the Photographer Donald B. Marsh. They Were taken at Eskimo Point, N.W.T., [Arviat (formerly Eskimo Point), Nunavut] and I found them at the Canadian Library and Archive.
After much research and alot of planning, I finally decided to begin practicing my traditional hand tattooing techniques. Here are the pictures of my first pieces, the skin stitch is four parallel lines which according to James Teit meant that the wearer was courageous, and then I tattooed three diamond shapes that represent lakes Witt there shores.