Typical Native American Tribal Bead Color Preferences
Typical Native American Tribal Bead Color Preferences
Typical Native American Tribal Bead Color Preferences
Typical Native American Tribal Bead Color Preferences
Typical Native American Tribal Bead Color Preferences
Typical Native American Tribal Bead Color Preferences article by Crazy Crow Trading Post
Typical Native American Tribal Bead Color Preferences article by Crazy Crow Trading Post
Typical Native American Tribal Bead Color Preferences article by Crazy Crow Trading Post
Typical Native American Tribal Bead Color Preferences article by Crazy Crow Trading Post

Typical Native American Tribal Bead Color Preferences

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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.

classic Delaware beadwork in stylized floral patterns

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

anadian Plains Pipebags:

Canadian Plains Pipebags:
R. Green Collection

Crow Martingale: Bud Lake

Crow Martingale: Bud Lake

Cheyenne Moccasins

Cheyenne Moccasins