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Typical Native American Tribal Bead Color Preferences

Crazy Crow Trading Post
zech Glass Seed Bead History & Color Preference Among North American Tribes
This shoulder bag is a fine example of classic Delaware beadwork in stylized floral patterns and dates from the 1840 period. It is beaded in the overlay technique in pony trader blue, Cheyenne pink, navy blue, white and transparent red and green Italian seed beads. Constructed on broadcloth, it is bound with a red wool edging and trimmed with tin cone and red yarn tassels. Private Collection
Canadian Plains Pipebags: R. Green Collection
Canadian Plains Pipebags:
R. Green Collection
Crow Martingale: Bud Lake
Crow Martingale: Bud Lake
Cheyenne Moccasins
Cheyenne Moccasins

The use of colors by Indian beadworkers varies widely among the many different tribes throughout the U.S. & Canada. These are general guidelines for some of the better known beadworking tribes. Many exceptions to this can be found, but this provides a basis for staying within the traditions for these tribes. One should also be aware that many variations of hues existed within given shades of colors, and these varied from factory to factory as well as in different lots from the same factory.

SIOUX

Background Colors: Chalk White or Light Blue; occasionally Greasy Yellow, Cheyenne Pink and Light/Medium Green.

Design Colors: All shades of Light, Medium and Dark opaque Blues, Transparent Navy Blue, Medium Green, Dark Green, White-lined Red, White-lined Rose, Greasy Yellow. The Northern Sioux typically used more colors than the Southern Sioux, including Black, which was occasionally used as a highlight color, and Pumpkin Yellow (Butterscotch).

CHEYENNE-ARAPAHO

Background Colors: Chalk White (4), almost exclusively.

Design Colors: Light Turquoise Blue (13-1/2), Opaque Navy Blue (27-1/2), Transparent Navy Blue, Opaque Royal Blue, Medium Mint Green (464), Dark Transparent Green (696), Cheyenne Pink (7), White-lined Rose (10R) - replaced by Red in later times, Corn Yellow (29), and limited use of Black and Pumpkin Yellow (Butterscotch). ** The color numbers specified above are the old Italian color numbers which are no longer being manufactured.

CROW & PLATEAU TRIBES

Background Colors: Light Blue, Cheyenne Pink, sometimes Lavender, Chalk White, & occasionally Yellow.

Design Colors: Red, White, Cheyenne Pink (Lavender), Light Blue, Medium Blue, Dark Blue, Yellow, Green, Pumpkin Yellow (Butterscotch) and occasionally Purple - especially for the Plateau Tribes who used more colors, shades and hues than the Crow, as well as more Cut Beads.

COMANCHE

Background Colors: Chalk White, Pony Trader/Powder Blue, Transparent Red, and occasionally Medium Green & Cheyenne Pink.

Design Colors: Dark Red, Dark Transparent Red, Navy Blue, Royal Blue, Pony Trader/Powder Blue, Turquoise Blue, and occasionally Greasy Yellow, White-lined Red, & Light or Medium Green.

BLACKFOOT

Background Colors: Chalk White or Light Blue; occasionally Medium Blue

Design Colors: Black, Transparent & Opaque Red, Yellow, Green, Cheyenne Pink, Transparent & Opaque Royal & Navy Blue, and occasionally Medium Blue, Greasy Yellow, Orange, & Pumpkin Yellow (Butterscotch).

UPPER & WESTERN GREAT LAKES TRIBES: WINNEBAGO, CHIPPEWAY (OJIBWA), FOREST POTAWATOMI, MENOMINI, OTTAWA

Background Colors: Chalk White, Yellow, Light Blue, Cheyenne Pink, Crystal, and occasionally Black, Navy Blue, and even Dark Transparent Red and Medium Transparent Green.

Design Colors: A wide range of virtually all shades of all colors were used, with stylized floral motifs worked on a background of buckskin or Navy, Red or Black cloth without a fully beaded background.

PRAIRIE TRIBES: SAUK, FOX (MESQUAKIE), KANSAS POTAWATOMI, OTOE, MISSOURIA, IOWA, PONCA, OSAGE, KAW, PAWNEE

Background Colors: Chalk White; occasionally Yellow, Light Blue, Cheyenne Pink, Crystal. Oftentimes it is somewhat difficult to distinguish between what is background and what are motifs or designs, as these tribes were very good at creating optical illusions and using negative space in their beadwork. Stylized floral motifs were usually worked on a background of buckskin or Navy, Red or Black cloth, without a fully beaded background.

Design Colors: Virtually all shades of colors were used, with Red, Yellow, Corn Yellow, Light Blue, Pony Trader/Powder Blue, Navy Blue, Cheyenne Pink, Dark Green, Medium Green being most common.

CHEROKEE & OTHER SOUTHEASTERN TRIBES

Background Colors: Stylized floral motifs were usually worked on a background of buckskin or Red, Navy or Black cloth, without a fully beaded background.

Design Colors: Chalk White, Dark Transparent Red, Light Blue, Greasy Yellow, Dark Green, Light Green, Cheyenne Pink, and many others in a wide range of old colors and shades, with numbers of cut beads being used as well. Generally, smaller sizes of beads were typical.

SHAWNEE / DELAWARE

Background Colors: Pony Trader/Powder Blue, Cheyenne Pink, Royal Blue, Dark Transparent Red.

Design Colors: Chalk White, Pony Trader/Powder Blue, Cheyenne Pink, Dark Transparent Red, White-Lined Red, Medium Green. Very rarely, Yellow & Pumpkin Yellow were used as highlight colors.

We would like to thank Benson Lanford and Adam Lovell for their expert help in compiling this list.


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Warriors Of The Plains: Native American Regalia & Crafts By M.S. Tucker and Joe W. Rosenthal, Published by Crazy Crow Trading Post
CRAZY CROW PUBLISHING!
Warriors Of The Plains: Native American Regalia & Crafts By M.S. Tucker and Joe W. Rosenthal represents years of research efforts. We offer a preview of several pages to show the quality of the construction detail, historical images, contemporary photos and illustrations of the many dance outfits presented.
Preview Book
The Plains Warbonnet: Its Story and Construction - by Barry Hardin, Published by Crazy Crow Trading Post
BEST WARBONNET BOOK!
The Plains Warbonnet: Its Story and Construction by Barry Hardin has been in the works for years, and is the result research and contributions from many fine craftspersons. Preview several pages to show the quality of the construction detail, historical images, as well as contemporary photos.
Preview Book
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