DescriptionA SIOUX BEADED AND FRINGED HIDE DRESS
c. 1885 the fully beaded bodice, sinew sewn and lane-stitched in classic bead colors, each side decorated with a band of cross-hatched motifs, surmounted by a panel enclosing a series of three tipis alternating with cross motifs, with pairs of hide thongs and three beaded bands above the hem, trimmed with hide fringe
The Dr. Jack and Mary Ann Adams Collection
Length: 55 ½ inches
"We make these designs so they'll look pretty," Ida White Cow Killer explained to the author, while working steadily on a pair of traditional style Sioux man's legging strips. During a visit with Ida at the Rosebud Sioux Art and Crafts Center, in the town of Rosebud, on the Brule Sioux Reservation in South Dakota in 1968, Ida went on to explain that in addition to selecting designs, a beadworker is at liberty to decide the choice of colors -- but that the range of hues must conform to tribal taste. Ida commented that a number of the designs "look like something" -- that is, they were recognizable as resembling certain objects -- a tipi, an arrow, or a hoof print, but that most were just, again, "pretty." Clark Wissler recorded similar observations as shared by Lakota women during his visit to the Sioux in 1902. He states, "... when a woman beads a dress, she is concerned primarily with the aesthetic effect, and works such designs into the beaded area as her taste may dictate," Wissler, 1904:240. Nonetheless, some designs or motifs indeed imply specific connotations. For example, the tipi motifs present on this dress yoke can symbolize the home, the family, or by extension even the tiyospaye (pron. Tee-YOHSH-pa-yey) -- Lakota for "the local community" as a whole.
Moreover, referring to the medium blue serving most commonly as the background color for Lakota dress yokes, Wissler continues, "The large beaded area represents a lake or body of water in which we see the reflection of the sky. The designs within this area traditionally represent the reflections of objects in the sky or on the shore. ... The beaded border is a representation of the shore of the lake," [ibid:240].
In addition, the people generally understand the U-shaped motif common to the bottom-center of both sides of beaded Sioux dress yokes to symbolize the breast of a turtle [ibid:240]. Be it recognized that the snapping turtle in particular embodies the qualities of endurance, tenacity, and longevity. Therefore the motif is seen as a sort of ever-present, tangible prayer for, or blessings of those qualities on the wearer. Multiple meanings are not uncommon in American Indian symbolism; levels of significance are frequently implied and understood. In the same manner that various interpretations are possible for the tipi design seen here, the resemblance of the band of solid-color lanes around the "shore of the lake" to a rainbow goes not unnoticed. To the traditional Indian way of thinking the rainbow is a powerful celestial phenomenon seen as a device or "trap" that halts threatening storms, rather than merely resulting from the tempest. Regarding the relatively large dimensions of this dress, its size perhaps misleads one to envision it as being for a more full-bodied person than in actuality. The fact that Plains Indians are an equestrian people requires their traditional clothing to be of ample cut. When donning a dress, the wearer puts on a belt, then gathers sides of her dress to cause the lower half of the garment to fall as very full skirt. Astride a mount, this fullness permits not only sufficient breadth of the skirt portion of the dress to accommodate sitting comfortably in a saddle, but also covers the woman's legs in modesty. Even so, the woman usually wraps a wearing blanket or shawl to cover her loins and legs even further.
Wissler, Clark, Decorative Art of the Sioux Indians, Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, New York, 1904, p 240.
Condition report available upon request.
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