Indigenous Tattoo Culture Subject of New Art Exhibit at Humboldt Area Foundation

This is a press release from the Humboldt Area Foundation:

On display now through May 2020, Humboldt Area Foundation is hosting Ink and Skin and Bone, a solo art exhibit of acrylic portraits by Native artist Tiffany Adams.

Known for her shell work, painting, and jewelry making, Tiffany Adams (Chemehuevi/Konkow/Nisenan) is an artist, activist, and educator who incorporates her California Indian cultural practices into the fabric of her work. Tiffany’s work is deeply rooted in her cultural identity as a California Indian, from her sculptures, paintings, jewelry, and basket making to her equity activism in public education, Tiffany’s community-based approach to art and art making is reflective of the ways in which identity formation is vital to artistic expression.

According to Adams, Ink and Skin and Bone is “a (re)writing and (re)righting of past anthropological and stereotypical representations of California Indigenous womxn’s tattoo culture,” a practice that banned during colonization. “It is imagery about strength, resilience and the literary power of tattoo revival, a language that is universal within many indigenous communities. This feminist artwork is made to reclaim space in our homelands and on our bodies.”

Humboldt Area Foundation invites the public to visit the Community Center, located at 363 Indianola Road in Bayside, to enjoy Tiffany Adams works. Ink and Skin and Bone will be on display for public viewing during normal business hours through May 2020. For more information contact Jill Moore: or (707) 442-2993.



  • every human on the face of the earth should give “Gravity” & “age” a real thought before tatting,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,just a thought

  • HAF needs to discuss its own “me too” moment regarding its past misogynistic Director before they have my support again.

  • Thank you for this post, Kim. Indigenous tattoos and faces that wear them are beautiful. And I particularly like the comment about minding one’s own life.

  • They are beautiful, I carry mine proudly, with honor!

  • Tatau =
    Polynesian culture

    Tatau is not a north American first nation tradition.

    If they were doing it, it wasn’t known as tatau.

    Co-opt others culture much?

    Ufa oi

    • “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet…” -Billy S.

      • In Iñupiatun (Iñupiaq in Alaska), the chin tattoo is called tavluġun. It has been an Iñupiaq women’s cultural heritage for thousands of years. It is not just a Polynesian tradition.

    • What do you mean “If they were doing it”? Of course they were. It was stick and poke or hand poke. Hand scratching and other titels translated to english. This term tattoo or tatau is universally known now. I call my chin “tattoo” medicine? Oh…. I’m not indigenous to the America’s either. Nothing like scaring fellow people of the same skin tone. XD

    • We are all connected. Our ancestors went from tahiti to the native Americans a very long time ago, before colonisers even knew how to sail. Hence why us Māori have the Kumara (sweet potato)…

    • Inuit women have been doing it for Millenia. It obviously wasn’t called tattoo. In our language is was called tunniit.

    • 🙄🙄🙄🙄

  • I love this… Reinforces the theory our people met before Colonisers even knew how to sail. My people too wear moko on their face both men and women

  • My Great Grandmother had these tatoos on her chin. When she died at approx 101 they were very faint. In our community the stripes were earned and a matter of respect in our community for various strengths. Now I see young ladies with stripes that I know are not even old enough have had earned the stripes. More upsetting is to see a non tribal person wearing stripes. I was 6 when my Gram died. Later on in years i found her obituary she was very respected in our community. But now days to each his own I think all Native women are beautiful in their own ways.

  • Indigenous Consciousness
    I am Tohono O’odham
    I am me.

  • Having survived termination policies, forced sterilization, boarding schools, colonization, domestic violence and abduction in frightening numbers, the 111 is a mark of courage, belonging and cultural continuity. Despite all the past, resilience and timeless beauty will always define indigenous women.

  • Native women have a royal beauty about themselves. Having tattoo’s on their face just accents their beauty and it is a means of honoring their heritage, culture, language and family traditions.

  • It is not a Decoration. It is a Declaration!

  • A picture is worth a thousand words. I added a chin tattoo in honor of my Nadawa Heritage. I used an aging app and here is the result.

    This is me unaltered with the tattoo

  • In my country Aotearoa (New Zealand) we call these Moko Kauai. They are traditionally done on women to represent where they come from but also the change of wairua (spiritual/essence) within that wahine (lady). They are mostly worn by our Kuia (women elders) and most of them are healers within our culture.

  • Always a hater in the group. These paintings are so powerful and beautiful one day your skin shall sag for the remark you made about the tattoos. Becareful what you say. #INDIGENOUSSTRONGWOMEN

  • Bozho. Hello. Considering all my tawi have already told off the colonizer in the group I wanted to use this to reach out. I love this fire and all the conversations and stories you’ve shared. I am Loon Clan Bodwewadmi (Potawatomi according to the Federal Gov). I am a MA/PhD student hoping to restructure, reclaim, and decolonize institutions. My research is on tattooing because I know my ancestors tattooed but white anthropologists did not care about women or their tattoos, and by the time they started exoticizing these medicines we had been forced on the Trail of Death and into boarding schools. Our tattoos no longer existed except in our hidden elders up north. My family was removed to Indian country and thus removed from these elders. In the process of revitalizing this medicine do you have any advice? I am still too young and undeserving of these medicines but someday I hope I can be and I hope to help my people for the 7th and 8th fires. Migwetth – thank you.

  • Are the variations of the tattoos from different families or do they have other meanings?

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