Blackfoot Beaded Dress, Kainai (Blood) moccasins, and Lakota Sioux buckskin shirt (back), National Museum of Scotland. I’ve spent the last several weeks learning about the Native Americans of the Great Plains for a humanities retreat. I’m still in the afterglow of this wonderful little interlude, and this morning, in thinking about what I learned, I remembered that I had seen these beautiful works of art about three years ago on a trip to Edinburgh, following the life and ideas of David Hume.
Blackfoot Beaded Dress and Kainai moccasins, closeup. The plaque reads: ‘…Blackfeet women [of Montana] wore dresses with striking beaded yokes and cut fringes, co-ordinated with belts, moccasins, and leggings. The v-shaped and square wool details near the hem represented the head and kidneys of the deer, as a mark of descent.’
Human hair- and ermine-trimmed buckskin shirt, Northern Plains people (possibly Lakota Sioux) National Museum of Scotland. The plaque reads: ‘Warriors of the Plains: Men belonged to military societies. For warriors, success in battle and war honors increased their social and political prestige. Ceremonial shirts were worn as a privilege. Materials and decoration added to the shirt’s power, particularly human hair and fur. White weasel fur (ermine) added something of the weasel’s fierce character.’
Chief Wana’ata of the Yanktonai Sioux painted and hair trimmed shirt with leggings, National Museum of Scotland. The plaque reads: ‘…Born in 1796, Wana’ata was promoted to Captain while serving with the British against the Americans in the War of 1812. He was named for his bravery – Wana’ata means “The Charger” or “He-Who-Leads-The-Charge”. These garments came to Scotland through William Laidlaw… a buffalo hunter and successful trader of Scots descent, who worked for the Columbian and American Fur Companies.’
Chief Wana’ata of the Yanktonai Sioux painted and hair trimmed shirt, back, closeup, National Museum of Scotland
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Wonderful post. Thanks Amy. After our days in Idaho I don’t see these as cultural displays, but rather filled with life of the human being that once wore them. Mary
Hi Mary! When I visited the National Museum of Scotland almost three years ago, I knew little about the Native Americans of the Great Plains. I admired and photographed these pieces as a textile artist, impressed by their interesting aesthetics, craftsmanship, and sheer beauty. Now looking at these artifacts again, I see them with new eyes, or rather, eyes opened a little more widely, the better to appreciate them.
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Actually the shirt behind Blackfeet dress is also Blackfeet. And moccasins are of Cree origin. Wanata’s shirt is almost certainly of Gros Ventre people. I’m aware of Wanata’s attribution, but shirt is not Yanktonai.
Anyway, i LOVE Edinburgh Museum, spent many times many hours there.