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North America's First Nations Tattoos

Mohave woman with tattoos and body paint

Algonquin  Chief circa 1590

Tattoo markings of Mohawk (left) and Cree Indian males

In 1701, less than two generations after first contact, Charles Becard de Granville, an official in New France, created this ink sketch. The caption reads, "Captain of the Nation of the Illinois, armed with a pipe and a dart." Granville's illustration is the earliest known image of the Inoca. (New York Public Library)

While the permanent skin art would seem to cover much of the Captain's body, the cosmetic devices of the face remain unresolved. Whether the patterns we see on his face are tattoo or paint is not revealed by the black and white sketch.

Inoca in 1735. Their faint tattoos, can be observed on their chests, backs, and legs.


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