A Sioux Pictorial Beaded Hide War Shirt
    c. 1890

    hide, pigments, glass seed beads,

    This shirt is tailored in typical Plains fashion and made to be worn poncho style. There are hide tie laces along the open sides and the sleeves are sewn together from wrist to elbow. The shirt is decorated with beaded shoulder and sleeve strips, the outer edges fringed with long hair locks. "In theory, at least, a lock of hair was added for each recognized deed in war: as, coup, capturing a horse, taking prisoners, getting wounds, saving the life of a friend, etc., but eventually the fringed shirt became simply the conventional regalia of the four grand councilors and finally a style of dress for anyone." The beaded strips feature classic Sioux colors and geometric motifs including crosses, chevrons, and triangles in red, green, yellow, and blue. Matched pairs of American flags are integrated into the design scheme. Further, the shirt is painted in blue green and yellow.

    The American flag became a popular design element with the Western Sioux during the last quarter of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth. Its significance is subject to differing interpretations and meanings might be layered. The flag could be viewed as a power symbol, a protective device, or an expression of loyalty to new authority. It may also be a reflection of Sioux bead workers interest in new design concepts and changing fashions of the times. This phenomenon has been explored in several studies. (See: Pohrt, Richard, The American Indian/The American Flag, Flint Institute of Arts, 1975; and Herbst, Toby and Kopp, Joel, The Flag in American Indian Art. Cooperstown: New York State Historical Association, 1993.) For similar examples see: The American Indian/The American Flag, figure 93, p. 82; and again in Art of the North American Indians: The Thaw Collection, figure T72, p. 131. Another shirt can be noted in Thompson, Judy, The North American Indian Collection: A Catalogue. Berne Historical Museum, 1977, figure 120, p. 176.

    Over time "war shirts" became less emblematic of specific rank or society affiliation. Nevertheless, they would only have been worn by important, well respected Lakota men.

    Acquired from a Pennsylvania family by Roy Harrelson.
    James Hart, Acquisition, Inc., Maple Shade, NJ

    Wissler, Clark, "Societies and Ceremonial Associations of the Oglala Division of the Teton-Dakota," Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History, Vol. XI, Part 1, New York, 1912.

    Length 38 ½ in.

    Condition Report*:

    In overall very good condition.  One bib with one tear, approx. 1" in length, to hide. Otherwise hide intact, but with several very small holes - a couple of these have native repairs.  One sleave with stitches in the seam missing.  Pigments vibrant.  Minor soiling.  Hide ties with breaks and loss. Hair drops intact.

    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Fees, Shipping, and Handling Description: Clothing, Costumes & Jerseys (view shipping information)

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    Auction Dates
    December, 2016
    13th Tuesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
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