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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Native American Collection

The museum has a significant Native American collection, most of which was collected or donated in the mid 1950s to mid 1960s.

One of the most beautiful and intriguing objects is a birchbark cradle, made about 1870. (BBDM 94.0.7)

In September, Curley Youpee of the Fort Peck Tribes of Montana made a consultation visit to the museum and examined the cradle.

Mr. Youpee noted the mix of Native American and European imagery on the cradle, created with hand-dyed porcupine quills on birchbark, and in the form of a traditional European rocking cradle. He felt the European rooster and chicken design, and Native American floral design represented the blending of the two cultures.

Photo by Mark Widhalm 2006 (left)

Another object carefully examined by Mr. Youpee was a sash.

The museum's files indicate the sash, still on its original loom, and shown here on its conservation mount, was collected at Bad River Reservation, WI in 1915. (BBDM 70.17.46)

The sash had been culturally identified as Chippewa, but Mr. Youpee advised that the leaf shooter design should be classified as Yankton Sioux.

Culturally identifying Native American objects can be difficult and often sources are contradictory.

This bandolier bag has been identified as Chippewa (Ojibwe) from about 1890, but due to the vivid red color used on the floral design, it has been speculated that the bag was made by Potawatomi.
(BBDM 70.16.23)

The bags, worn in pairs one over each shoulder, were adapted from the European style of ammunition belts, such as those worn by British Red Coats. Over time, these pouches evolved into purely decorative costume with the bags sewn shut.

Today, bandolier bags are worn as a symbol of prestige at pow-wows, or given as gifts.

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