Contribution by Cree Whelshula, NLCC TTA Director

Painting by Louis F. Boyd, Colville Tribal Member

In every Native community, you will find an abundance of gifted and talented Native artists. These artistic gifts come in the form of painting, sewing, weaving, scultping, beading, singing, dancing, and so much more. Many Native artists draw inspiration from their heritage and celebrating our ancestral connection with nature. Art, in all its forms, is a practice that has deep roots within our cultures. Patterns found in baskets are often passed down from generation to generation; as if it’s a visual representation of our lineage. Whether it is traditional or modern art, indigenous communities value this practice. 

We all know the sense of calm and tranquility that comes with seeing a beautiful piece of art or hearing a song that we enjoy. Researchers are unveiling what is happening in our brain while we experience art. The simple act of looking at a beautiful piece of visual art can actually increase the blood flow to your brain (“How…”). As blood carries oxygen to the brain, and as the art increases that blood flow, it results in improved cognition. In addition, both observing art and creating art lowers stress and improves mood. The creation of art can also improve the connection between different regions of the brain (Bolwerk).

As it pertains to language revitalization, art can be a meaningful way to learn language. It increases the brains ability to retain information and increases mood states that are conducive to learning (Bolwerk). Even if art is not the method of instruction for language, it could be useful to have it available in language classes. For example, students have access to coloring sheets or pattern grids with a variety of markers, pencils, or crayons that they can use to color while learning. In addition, creating a classroom environment with various works from Native artists displaying paintings, drawings, basketry, beadwork, or music in the background could be a first step towards art utilization in language learning.

Resources Cited:

Bolwerk, Anne, et al. “How Art Changes Your Brain: Differential Effects of Visual Art Production and Cognitive Art Evaluation on Functional Brain Connectivity.” PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0101035.

“How Looking at Art Can Help Your Brain.” Ashford University, 24 May 2017, www.ashford.edu/online-degrees/liberal-arts/how-looking-at-art-can-help-your-brain.