DescriptionA Sioux Pictorial Beaded Hide War Shirt
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.
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