Native American Cosmology

Part of the Totems to Turquoise exhibition.

Wearing the Universe

Different Native groups see the world in fundamentally different ways, and these world views are expressed in their jewelry.

Long-standing cultural beliefs shape artists' choices of colors, designs, and materials in both the Southwest and the Northwest Coast. Even the most modern creations are linked to deeply rooted ideas about the structure and meaning of the world. This section introduces a few of these ideas and explores how they are embodied in jewelry and other arts.

The art of both regions expresses important ideas about the natural and supernatural worlds. In the Southwest, for example, colors and patterns evoke the cardinal directions that structure the universe. Northwest Coast art frequently illustrates narratives of animal/human transformation, a key cultural concept. In both regions, seasonal cycles shape daily life and ritual, supplying numerous visual motifs.