I hope you will bear with me today as I post an older blog, one which I particularly like, and I’ve changed it a little to bring it up to date, but I really needed to fall back on something today because I got hit with some very bad news today. A very good friend of mine, Jim Bird, was killed early this morning in an accident on the road. He was a good friend and we had many adventures with each other because we both loved the Blackfeet people and so we often found ourselves trying to help them…together. So please forgive me for the repeat — but it’s a much older blog and one I really love for its beauty. So please do enjoy!
As I sit here looking through my many books, I am struck by the beauty of the American Indian style of dress. But before I begin, I’d like to let you know that once again, I’ll be giving out a free book to some lucky blogger. Please note that this offer is for those in the greater 50 United States or Canada and void where prohibited.
Okay, all that aside, I thought I’d start with Plains Indian dress, since this is probably what we are the most familiar with. I might also call this post, a tour of George Catlin and Karl Bodner’s paintings. The time period in which they worked was in the 1830?s — mostly around 1834. Off to the left is a painting by George Catlin. Note that the dress does not hide the natural curve of the animal that it is made from. Notice too the intricate painting and or beading/quill work on the dress. All tribes were different, which made it a little easier for the men of the tribe to read trails (they could tell by the mere indentation of a moccasin what tribe had passed that way.)
Note in all of these painting the robe or shawl that encircles the woman. Both men and women favored the robe. Most were again intricately beaded or painted or decorated. To this day, the shawl still survives in women’s dress. When one goes to a pow-wow and wishes to dance, one wraps a shawl around oneself before entering into the circle.
Many Plains women favored the two-skin dress. Originally, the skirt with a poncho made of skin was the favored dress. But by the time the white man arrived in Indian country, the two-skin dress was popular. Later, still, a three skin dress became popular. Depending on the tribe, the yoke of the dress was either decorated with beads, quills or with many rows of elk’s teeth. The bottom of the ankle-length dress could be left in the same shape as the animal, although sometimes the hem was fringed.
Women also traditionally wore knee-length leggings that were laced at the front or the inside. These were often painted and designed with quill work. Off to the side here are two Blackfeet men. Note the fringe on their sleeves. Not also the robe (or cape) around their shoulders. This man on the left has his face painted black and there are many, many feathers attached to his head. This man was a chief and the “buttons” on his shirt are brass and the designs are made of blue glass. This painting is one of Karl Bodner’s.
The picture off to the right is of a Blackfeet Indian on horseback. Notice the fringed shirt and fringed saddle, as well as the feather tied to the horse’s mane. Notice, too, the painted designs on his leggings. The Blackfeet man’s basic dress was breechcloth, shirt, leggings, moccasins and the ever present robe. This man’s shirt comes almost to his knees as he is sitting. And note that the hemline keeps the same shape of the animal that the clothes were made from. This is a beautiful drawing and shows the richness of a people who, while owning no money, had all the comforts and necessities of life.
I’m showing these two pictures together because both come from the Mandan tribe. The Mandans were a tribe that traded goods from both southern and northern and western tribes. They had permanent villages. The painting on the left is of a man named Flying War Eagle, who was one of their best warriors. Note the hair-bows on each side of his face, the feathers, the necklace, the earrings. I would like to point out that those earrings are not feminine at all. Now around his neck are bear claws. This means that he had killed a bear. Note also the wolf tails that are attached to his moccasins. On the right is the same warrior, but with another man, the one in the foreground, who was an Indian artist. Note the robe thrown around their shoulders. They lived in a cold climate.
This next picture is of a Hidasta Indian — the Hidasta were another tribe that had settled in permanent villages, right along the Missouri River. This man’s name was Black Raven. Note the elaborate peace pipe, the bear necklace, the hair-bow and single feather. Note also the beautiful designs on his leggings and moccasins. This is another Karl Bodner painting. I have these picture in a larger book at home — that’s how I’m able to see much of the detail.
And here off to the left is my favorite. The man is Assiniboine, which is a tribe that is related to the Lakota or Sioux. Note the two hair beads that hang from locks in front. Note also the hair that is made to come down directly on his nose. Note that his costume has again kept the shape of the animal at the hemline. This man’s robe looks very much like a cape. On his shield is attached his medicine bundle. Many a warrior would not go to war without that medicine bundle. I have studied this painting long and often and in great detail. This is a handsome man in anybody’s culture. Tall, firm of limb, proud bearing, yet gentle spirit. Ah…
The painting below is one that I found on the Republic of Lakotah website. I was particularly taken with it. While it doesn’t show the manner of dress necessarily, it does show the strength of spirit of not only the man, but the eagle. It’s a magnificent painting.
Where this painting takes place I don’t know. Perhaps in the woodlands of the Dakota people — it’s only that I know of very few places in the West where there are strands of dicidious trees as isshown here. The title of this picture is “Red Road.”
Well, I didn’t get very far today in discussing dress. Mostly I’m afraid I got engrossed in the handsome pictures of these very beautiful people. Now off to the left here is the cover of BLACK EAGLE, my latest novel that is still in the bookstores. Off to the right is the cover of PROUD WOLF’S WOMAN, for the first time in ebook form, which is due to released in February 2012. If you’d like to read an excerpt of this book, please visit my site at www.novels-by-KarenKay.com.
Well, that’s all for today’s post. Hope you’ve enjoyed these pictures as much as I do. So please come on in and leave a comment. What do you think? Are these clothes as pretty as the English clothes of the same period? Remember that at this time period, one’s “betters” dressed differently than the common folk (which was not true in Native America). Come on in and leave a message.