Encyclopedia Article


A protective outer layer generally worn to protect a person in battle. For the Europeans, armor was often made of metal and thick cloth. However, as Native Americans did not use metal extensively before European contact, their armor was often made of wood, bones, and animal hides. For some Southwest tribes, armor came in the form of shields that were an average of 17 inches in diameter that were painted and decorated on the outside.

The Navajo used armor made from buckskin covered in a quilted cloth, which helped the armor keep its shape. This armor was tight fitting around the neck region and extended to the elbow. The first layer of buckskin was tied in the front and covered in a sticky substance derived from cactus. This layer was then covered in another layer of buckskin. The buckskin has been recorded as being up to eight layers thick and very heavy. Additionally, like other Southwestern tribes, the Navajo also sometimes carried shields.

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"Warrior with shield, Comanche Gap near Galisteo, New Mexico" by Jerry Willis is licensed under CC BY.

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