Contemporary North America

Today Native American societies thrive across North America, with traditional practices, languages and religions experiencing a resurgence after decades of suppression and neglect.

Active social and artistic programmes have resulted in the restoration of the pow-wow to prominence on the Plains with regular dances and celebrations, while Northwest Coast canoes can again be seen on the fjords and channels of the North Pacific. In the deserts of the Southwest, great markets have developed, trading pottery and jewellery produced using traditional materials and techniques while the Inuit now supplement their income with the sale of intricate carvings displaying life in their frozen homeland.

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Mohawk Lunchbucket
  • 1

    Mixed media sculpture, Mohawk, 1982 

    Mohawk Lunchbucket

    This sculpture by Ric Glazer Danay comments on the role played by Mohawk engineers in the construction of New York’s skyscrapers. The Mohawk are renowned for their ability to work at great heights and were extensively employed in the construction industry.

  • 2

    Copper-plated car bonnet, Haida, 2010 

    "Copper from the Hood"

    A copper-plated car bonnet by Michael Nicholl Yahgulaanas makes ironic comparison between the status symbols of his Haida ancestors and the status symbols of today, in this case a Toyota Tercel.

  • 3

    Barbed wire sculpture, Wasco, 2000 

    "Anti-Social Wild West Weaving"

    A sculpture by Pat Courtney Gold of the Wasco reflects the effects suffered by Native Americans by the fencing off of their traditional hunting and foraging grounds for pastoral agriculture.

  • 4

    Soapstone sculpture, Inuit, 1969 

    "Family Sewing and Building a Kayak"

    Carved from soapstone by Mitarjuk Nappaaluk, this sculpture tells the traditional story of an Inuit hunting party, stranded on an ice floe, who constructed boats from dismembered seals and returned to land safely.

  • 5

    Silver and turquoise box, Navajo, 1960s 

    Silver box

    This silver box was made near Gallup, New Mexico in the 1960s by a Navajo craftsman. It is inlaid with turquoise, a rich blue stone mined and traded in North and Central America for thousands of years.

Explore the other featured cultures

The Eastern Woodlands

Deerskin moccasins

The peoples of the expansive woodlands of Eastern America live in a large number of tribes, with related religious and linguistic traditions.

More about the Eastern Woodlands 

The Plains

Elk tooth dress

The people of the North American Plains were predominantly nomadic, living in large territories roamed by great herds of buffalo.

More about the Plains Peoples 

The Northwest Coast


The societies of the Northwest coast of North America developed in relative isolation between the Coastal Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

More about the Northwest Coast 

The Arctic

Ulu knife

The people of the farthest northern reaches of the Americas live in a world of scarcity: finite resources and a hostile environment have created a resourceful and resilient people who retain much of their ancestral tradition and lifestyle.

More about the Arctic 

The Southwest

Katsina doll

The peoples of the Southwestern United States have a long tradition of settled life that is reliant on agriculture.

More about the Southwest