ERIC Number: ED454010
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 2000-Feb
Native American Visual Vocabulary: Ways of Thinking and Living.
Dyc, Gloria; Milligan, Carolyn
Visual literacy is a culturally-derived strength of Native American students. On a continent with more than 200 languages, Native Americans relied heavily on visual intelligence for trade and communication between tribes. Tribal people interpreted medicine paint, tattoos, and clothing styles to determine the social roles of those with whom they interacted. Color and symbolism could be used to encode a family identity. The graphic designs in Native American painting are often esoteric, charged icons that suggest a unity of culture transcending other factors such as building techniques, use of plants, and architectural layout. The more abstract icons lend themselves to multiple interpretations. As oral language is poeticized so as to be remembered, so graphic design is stylized to suggest analogical thought. In traditional settings, social roles and expectations, cultural history, and esoteric knowledge were built into nonverbal behavior, which could be interpreted on a number of levels. Children could process information on the most concrete, literal level, while more esoteric meanings were available to those who occupied specific roles in the community. Good teachers started with the simple, literal explanation and then proceeded to a more complex level when the learner asked the right questions. Digital technology may be transforming definitions of literacy for the masses, and the shift may indeed favor visual intelligence. Visual vocabulary is undervalued in education, and there is a need for collaboration between those in the visual and verbal arts. (Contains 23 references.) (TD)
Publication Type: Information Analyses; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: In: National Association of African American Studies & National Association of Hispanic and Latino Studies: 2000 Literature Monograph Series. Proceedings (National Association of Native American Studies Section) (Houston, TX, February 21-26, 2000).