|Native American Indians regard art as an element of life, not as a separate aesthetic ideal.
In indigenous societies, the arts are aspects of public life that bring dancing, poetry, and
the plastic and graphic arts together as a single function or ritual as the all-embracing
expression. Art is indispensable to ritual and ritual is the Native American Indian concept
of the whole life process. Native people see sand painting as indistinct from dancing, dancing
as indistinct from worship, and worship as indistinct from living.
Traditional Native healers or shamans draw on a vast body of symbolism passed down
through the centuries. These images are stored in the memories of traditional healers and
passed from generation to generation. Sand paintings are used to return the patient
symbolically to the source of tribal energy. Indigenous philosophy does not separate healing
from art or religion. Almost all of the healing disciplines originated from religious beliefs
and the spiritual leader's practices.
Most art authorities concede that the Southwestern sand paintings produced by the Navajo
are the intricate, complex and beautiful art-forms.
The Diné is the Navajo name for themselves and the term they use for sand painting is
'iikááh, which means a "place where the gods come and go."
Sand paintings are paintings made by sprinkling dry sands colored with natural pigments onto
a board or the ground for ceremonial purposes to heal the sick. It is believed that sand
paintings allow the patient to absorb the powers depicted in the grains of sand.
The pigment colors used by the Navajo are gathered in the surrounding desert. It is mostly
colored sandstone which is then ground to form a fine powder. The colors are mostly red,
brown, and ochre-yellow because these are the colors found in sandstone within the tribal
areas. They usually include crushed charcoal which is mixed with sand to produce the color
black. They sometimes us yellow cornmeal, pollen from plants, and crushed flowers to the