Indian Crafts in the Plains is cantered on pictographic displays painted on hides used for tips and clothing. These flat pictures were the presentation of some on the events that used to take place.
Indians of the northwest coast carved totem poles that towered above their longhouses. Abundant forests provided the raw material for the poles, as well as for highly decorated watertight wooden boxes and elaborately carved wooden masks, used to disguise the wearer, helping him or her to capture the spirit of supernatural beings. The totems carved on the poles and the masks depicted animals or supernatural animals, such as the thunderbird, in unconventional forms. The Indians also carved totems on bones and tusks. And this ultimately gave raise to the Indian crafts on the bones, bamboo and masks (used for ceremonial dances in north eastern India).
The south Indians had a sedentary tone in their life which helped them get skilled in making pottery, jewellery, baskets, and woven cloth. Different tribes could be easily separated through specialized decorations.
Geometric designs, spirals, dots, frets, bands, bars, zigzags, and terraced figures graced the pottery of the Pueblo tribes. The Hopis stylized birds so that individual species could not always be identified.
The Zunis used triangles, open circles, coils, diamonds, arches, and scrolls. Their ceremonial masks were easily identified by rolled collars of feathers.
At later stage, Indian crafts gradually changed from utilitarian to commercial. Indians adopted new tools and materials. Indians in the east sold baskets made from wood splints, instead of baskets woven from thin grass fibbers.
Growth of tourism, led to an increased interest in Indian craft. This made Indian craft to produce strictly for sale. Once consumers put Navajo blankets on floors, the Navajos adapted the idea and changed their rugs, which became their dominant product. Pueblo Indians manufactured ashtrays, candlesticks, and figurines instead of their traditional bowls and jars. California Indians adapted their basketry tradition to this modern marketplace as well. This commercialism sparked the debate about what in Indian craft was valuable as fine art, what was valuable as craft, and what was valuable as ethnographic history.
Western craft techniques were taught alongside traditional practices at Indian schools, especially those in Oklahoma and New Mexico. With drawings on paper and canvas, Indians made their craft forms more comprehensible to non-Indians. Yet, they also incorporated elements of traditional forms.
In 1939, the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco featured Indian craft; in 1941, the Museum of Modern Craft in New York exhibited Indian craft on three floors and drew attention to Indian craft. From 1946 to 1979, the Phil brook Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma, held juried competitions for Indian craft. The competitions set The standard for what was considered Indian craft–a flat, pictorial style. Indian artists Oscar Howe, Joe Herrera, and Allan Houser led the way into the modern period. By exploring form and content, they captured the spirit and mythical traditions of their people through abstractions and modern mediums. A force in this development was the establishment in 1962 of the Institute of American Indian Crafts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, funded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
In 1989, the National Museum of the American Indian was established within the Smithsonian Institution with exhibition facilities designated for New York and Washington, D.C. Other museums that feature major displays of Indian craft include the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis, and the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles, California.