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October 28, 2011

A Song for the Horse Nation Spotlight: Horse Scenes on Tipis

20111024_01a_kjf_ps__DSC7723Lakota tipi, ca. 1890–1910. South Dakota. Muslin, paint. (20/7873) (Photo by Wayne Smith, NMAI)

 

The last object we'd like to spotlight from A Song for the Horse Nation is also the first object visitors will see when they enter the exhibition.

Unlike earlier versions that were constructed of hide, this Lakota tipi, circa 1890-1910, was constructed of canvas, which was rationed to tribes in the latter part of the 19th century when buffalo became scarce.

Oral traditions were frequently documented on tipis and hide robes; the main actions are usually read from left to right. Museum scholar Emil Her Many Horses, who curated A Song for the Horse Nation, says pigments like those that appear on this tipi were traditionally made using earth paints like charcoal (black) and ochre clay (red).

  5533115614_fec3011a6d_zDetail of the Lakota tipi during conservation at the museum's Cultural Resources Center (Photo by Molly Stephey)

This tipi is decorated with actual battle and horse-raiding scenes, and features the names of Lakota warriors who once rode the plains: Gray Eagle, Red Bear, West Bear and Kills Ten Enemies.

Like many of the museum's objects, this one required careful consideration for both handling and display. For example, when the tipi was set up in the gallery, the exhibition designer made sure the opening faced East, in keeping with tradition.

Angela Duckwall, an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Conservation at the museum's Cultural Resources Center, explains:

"The sewing of the tipi would have been carried out by women and owned by the women. The painting would have been done by men and was probably done to celebrate successes in battle. Its was likely done for a special occasion as opposed to being an everyday lodge.”

The tipi was erected in the exhibition space as it was originally intended: using pine poles to construct a conical framework, pulling the cover over this framework, and staking out the edge to hold it down and make it taut, Duckwall says. "My job as conservator for this piece is to ensure that it can withstand the handling and tension that it will endure while being set up and during the exhibit, and to try to prevent any damage as much as possible."

 

P1040745Angela Duckwall, Mellon Fellow in Conservation, and Susan Heald, Senior Textile Conservator, attaching the band to the bottom edge of the tipi cover. (Photo by Lauren Horelick)

 

“The drawings look like several artists participated in the creation of these scenes. There have been some alterations to the tipi cover in its history, including a slight shortening at both center edges that have folded in some of the figures," Duckwall notes.

"This has allowed us to see that at least two of the horses were repainted after this alteration and to see how much fading has occurred to the images since the alteration,” adding, “Conservators get very excited by these discoveries." 

A Song for the Horse Nation, which will be on view from October 29, 2011, through January 7, 2013, is curated by Emil Her Many Horses (Oglala Lakota). The accompanying book, edited by Her Many Horses and the scholar George P. Horse Capture (A’aninin), is available at the museum’s shops and the museum’s Web site.

For the online exhibition, visit http://nmai.si.edu/static/exhibitions/horsenation/

For an online overview, visit http://nmai.si.edu/explore/exhibitions/item/?id=905.

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Fascinating. I can't wait to see it. It is probably even more fantastic in person.

Wow, this is incredibly beautiful. I love the dynamic nature of the painting, you can feel the horses galloping across the canvas. What a treasure!

This is amazing. I recommend kids teepee too.

Indian Country in the News: Oct. 21 - Oct. 28, 2011

This week's news highlights include the decision in Bolivia to scrap plans for a road into the Amazon following weeks of protests by the country's indigenous groups; a new outcry in nearby Brazil against a proposed hydroelectric dam in the rainforest; the end of a decades-long legal fight between the Osage tribe and the U.S. government; the launch of a new indigenous film collaborative; and the Washington Post's discussion on race and the city's controversial football mascot:

  • BBC: Bolivia's Evo Morales scraps Amazon road project - "Bolivia's President Evo Morales has scrapped plans for a road project in the Amazon that had triggered protests by indigenous people. Morales said the road would no longer go through a rainforest reserve. He made the announcement two days after protesters arrived in La Paz following a two-month march from the Amazon lowlands to voice their opposition. It is not yet clear what the demonstrators' response will be. The president said he would send a measure to Congress that would accommodate the protesters' demands. An indigenous leader, Rafael Quispe, said the president's proposal was a "good sign" but said they had 15 other demands that needed to be discussed, the Spanish news agency Efe reported."
  • NYTimes: Brazilian Amazon Groups Invade Site of Dam Project - "Hundreds of members of indigenous communities in the Brazilian Amazon invaded the construction site of the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam on Thursday. Although they had vowed to permanently occupy the site in their latest attempt to stop the dam from being built, the protest disbanded late Thursday. About 300 people arrived on seven buses at 6 a.m. and made their way to the site in Pará State where the North Energy consortium is building a workers’ camp for the mammoth dam, said Paulo Cunha, an inspector for the Federal Highway Police. The group blocked the Trans-Amazon Highway around the village of Santo Antônio, where it passes the construction site, he said."
  • AFP: Native American tribe gets $380 million to end lawsuit - "The United States reached a final settlement of $380 million Friday with a Native American tribe to resolve allegations of mismanagement of trust assets in a long-standing lawsuit. The agreement with the Osage Tribe capped a 12-year dispute over the Interior Department's accounting and management of trust funds and non-monetary trust assets belonging to the Oklahoma tribe, including its mineral estate. The agreement, which was executed on October 14, came a year after the Department of Agriculture reached a separate, landmark $760 million settlement with Native American farmers and ranchers to resolve claims of discrimination in a government-administered farm loan program."
  • Variety: Indigenous filmmakers launch confab - "The Sami village of Kautokeino, Norway, is getting ready to host the world's first Indigenous Film Conference, to be attended by a lucky clutch of filmmakers and execs who will congregate in the middle of the Tundra. Among those expected to descend into the ancestral arctic heartland Oct. 27-29 are N. Bird Runningwater, head of the Sundance Institute's Native American and Indigenous Program, U.S. producer Heather Rae ("Frozen River"), Erica Glynn, chief of Screen Australia's Indigenous unit, and producer Cory Generoux with Canada's National Film Board.  Confab organizer Anne lajla utsi, topper of the Sami film Center, says indigenous peoples have seen enough of romantic ethnographic stories and stereotypical tales made by outsiders. Besides taking the pulse of indigenous production worldwide, and initiating a global network, one of the purposes of the confab is to prompt funding in Scandinavia for indigenous cinema, modeled on existing funding entities for such films in Australia and Canada."
  • WashPost: Redskins fans: What do you think? - "Our story about black fans being more loyal to the Redskins than white fans is generating plenty of comments. And it raises a few questions we’d like you to consider: Should African American be outraged about the team name, given that some Native Americans consider it a slur? What is your family’s relationship to the team and why? Is there a generational split in your family?"

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Indian Country is very popular now for their vacations and their culture.

October 27, 2011

A Song for the Horse Nation Spotlight: Ceremonial Objects and Honoring the Horse

11_8044Assiniboine horse stick. Made by Medicine Bear, circa 1860. NMAI 11/8044

Most successful warriors had special relationships with their favorite horses because they depended on each other to live. In order to confirm and continue this bond, a warrior would often immortalize a horse that had saved his life by creating a wood carving in the horse's image.

The famous warrior and diplomat Medicine Bear carved the likeness above in memory of his war pony, killed in battle in norther Montana in the mid-1800s; the mane and tail on this dance stick came from that pony.

Today, Medicine Bear himself is remembered by a social center named in his honor on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in Montana.

T141566Dance stick owned by No Two Horns (Hunkpapa Lakota), North Dakota. NMAI 14/1566

Arguably the most famous and widely copied dance stick was made by the Hunkpapa Lakota warrior No Two Horns to honor a horse that carried him to vicitory.

The details of the dance stick illustrate that his horse suffered six different wounds, as indicated by the red triangles, and the scalp replica attached to the horse's mouth may pay additional homage to the horse, or it may testify to the rider's own exploits.

The eagle feather and fancy silver bridle also suggest the importance of this animal and show that it was a cherished companion. Other interesting elements to note are the carved hoof at the bottom of the stick and the rawhide ears.

15_4760Sioux wooden pipe tamper, late 19th century (NMAI 15/4760)

 

Among many tribes, one of the most sacred ways to pray is through a ceremony centered on the smoking of a pipe. After the ceremonial accoutrements are carefully laid out, the pipe stem is inserted into the bowl, and the whole pipe is smudged, or cleansed, in sage smoke. Tobacco is placed into the pipe bowl and tucked in with a pipe tamper like the one pictured here. The pipe is then lighted and smoked by each of the participants as they pray. This pipe tamper is appropriately decorated with a horse icon, considered a sacred animal by the Sioux. 

 

A Song for the Horse Nation, which will be on view from October 29, 2011, through January 7, 2013, is curated by Emil Her Many Horses (Oglala Lakota). The accompanying book, edited by Her Many Horses and the scholar George P. Horse Capture (A’aninin), is available at the museum’s shops and the museum’s Web site.

For the online exhibition, visit http://nmai.si.edu/static/exhibitions/horsenation/

For an online overview, visit http://nmai.si.edu/explore/exhibitions/item/?id=905.

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October 26, 2011

A Song for the Horse Nation Spotlight: Horse Masks

18_8880Siksika (Blackfoot) horse head covering, circa 1845. (NMAI 18/8880)

Picture a horse wearing the mask above and coming toward you, and it isn't hard to appreciate how powerful and utterly transformative this head covering would be. The mask, made around 1845, is decorated with clipped feathers, Chinese brass buttons and pony beads, which were among the first glass beads introduced to Native Americans through trade with Europeans.

As horses became more integral to American Indian tribes like the Navajo, Crow and Blackfeet, riders became experts in fabricating horse gear for hunting, warfare and ceremony. Along the way, they transformed utilitarian equipment into a unique art form.

New ideas in design and ornament circulated through Native trade routes from Mexico to the Pacific Northwest. Some Native groups acquired Spanish-style gear, or copied it, with modifications based on local materials and personal taste. A lively trade in bridle bits and other metal parts sprang up. But for the most part, Native craftsmen made their own: saddles, bridles, cinches, whips, and ropes. Blending a variety of influences—Spanish saddles, eastern beadwork, traditions of family and tribal identity—Native artists created a rich new visual art form.

 

Oglala_Lakota_Beaded_Horse_Mask_1413Lakota beaded horse mask, ca. 1904. Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota. NMAI 1413

 

Because masks limited a horse's range of vision, they were usually used only for parades, not for battles. The elaborately beaded horse mask above was used in 1904 by a Teton Sioux chief to lead the Fourth of July parade at Pine Ridge, the same South Dakota reservation where museum curator Emil Her Many Horses' grandmother was born.

What is so unique about this mask is that it appears to have been made with the intention of later being recycled into many different objects. The beaded section, which would be placed over the face of the horse, could be remade into a pair of women's beaded leggings, and the area over the horse's cheek could be made into a pipe bag. The upper neck section of the cover would have been made into a pair of tipi bags, also known as a "possible bag," because anything possible could be stored inside. The lower neck section could be made into a pair of moccasins.

 

Cheyenne_Quilled_Horse_MaskNorthern Cheyenne quilled horse mask, mid-19th century. NMAI 1/4443

 

A quilled horse mask like the one above would have been created by a member of a quillwork guild. If a Cheyenne woman wanted to learn quillwork, she made an offering to a member of the guild, and if her offering was accepted, she would be taught the art and allowed to work as an apprentice.

Quillwork guilds were not just instructional, they embodied a religious element as well, not unlike a sisterhood. To become a member of a quillwork guild was to assume a station of respect and power, and when the guilds died out in the late 1800s, so did the practice of quillwork in Cheyenne society.

But the art of making horse masks still thrives. The museum is pleased to showcase a contemporary horse mask (below) by Kiowa artist Vanessa Jennings that features cut glass beads, silver, red and black wool cloth, brass bells, brass spots, hide, and red dyed horse hair.

              20111024_01a_kjf_ps__DSC7709Kiowa horse mask and martingale, 2010. Oklahoma. Made by Vanessa Jennings (Kiowa, b. 1952). Courtesy of Randall and Teresa Willis.

 

A Song for the Horse Nation, which will be on view from October 29, 2011, through January 7, 2013, is curated by Emil Her Many Horses (Oglala Lakota). The accompanying book, edited by Her Many Horses and the scholar George P. Horse Capture (A’aninin), is available at the museum’s shops and the museum’s Web site.

For the online exhibition, visit http://nmai.si.edu/static/exhibitions/horsenation/

For an online overview, visit http://nmai.si.edu/explore/exhibitions/item/?id=905.

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Horse Masks look so awesome, if you didn't share this topic I would've missed some of the best masks in the world. Thanks for sharing! Really appreciated it!.

My husband just completed a sculpture with a horse wearing a mask similar to the top blackfoot mask. He is going to sculpt a whole series of horse's wearing masks. We love them. I am reading the book American Indian horse masks and it so interesting.

The art work is sweet. I would love to see this used during the time period that it was made.

Awesome masks. 2nd is great:)


Incredible art,and wonderful history. Thank you.

So much artistic mask.I like them so much.

so much attractive work,very creative ,thanks for sharing

there are some cool horse masks they are awsome let me make them for my horse

i am making one now

October 25, 2011

A Song for the Horse Nation Spotlight: Warrior Dress

When horses arrived in the Western Hemisphere in the 1500s, they transformed how many American Indian tribes traveled, hunted and waged war. Communities no longer had to spend days securing sustenance on foot or organizing hunting parties to track prey. Tribes could travel farther, expanding their access to natural resources, and a lone hunter could kill a buffalo almost at will.

Because of horses, which some tribes collectively referred to as the Horse Nation, Native Americans had something they had never had before: unencumbered time to develop their arts, spirtiuality, and philosophy. Most tribes embraced this new "big dog," and it fit easily within their cultures. The impact of horses can be seen even in the dress of Plains tribes like the Cheyenne:

 

08_8034Cheyenne shirt, circa 1865. (NMAI, 8/8034)

Shirts such as these were made and worn by esteemed Plains warriors, spiritual leaders and diplomats. Many of the locks on this shirt are horsehair, and the shirt's owner is probably the lance-bearing warrior on the yellow horse (below, left). The black zigzag line running from the yellow horse's head and down its front leg symbolizes lightning; it would have been painted on the actual horse to provide it with power in battle.

08_8034_Close-up
Dresses like the one below, on the other hand, were reserved for a close family member -- possibly the wife or sister -- of the warrior depicted on the fabric. The paintings on this dress, which appear to illustrate vignettes of intertribal warfare between Plains communities, recall the distinctions of one individual and indicate that he suffered five wounds.

17_6078Muslin dress with painted decoration, circa 1875. NMAI 17/6078

176078_Close-up

The museum's new exhibition, A Song for the Horse Nation, which opens Oct. 29, 2011, explores the many ways that horses have influenced American Indian culture even to this day. Contemporary traditions include the annual fair at the Crow Indian Reservation in southeastern Montana, which draws more than 2,000 horses each year and features elaborate parades and “giveaways” in which members of the tribe give away horses to relatives and friends as a gesture of generosity and honor. 


A Song for the Horse Nation, which will be on view through January 7, 2013, is curated by Emil Her Many Horses (Oglala Lakota). The accompanying book, edited by Her Many Horses and the scholar George P. Horse Capture (A’aninin), is available at the museum’s shops and the museum’s Web site.

For the online exhibition, visit http://nmai.si.edu/static/exhibitions/horsenation/

For an online overview, visit http://nmai.si.edu/explore/exhibitions/item/?id=905.

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Very good post.Thanks for sharing this great article! I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic.Excellent post and wonderful blog, I really like this type of interesting articles keep it up.

woowwww. Good pic.

thank you for sharing this really good article

Great content article, Keep going! Best regards

The warrior Dresses are just looking awesome!! There is a true story behind every picture!