When the Blackfoot Indians were confined to reservations in the late nineteenth century, their pictographic representations of warfare kept alive the rituals associated with war, which were essential facets of Blackfoot culture. Their war ethic served as a unifying force among the four tribes of the Blackfoot nation—Siksika, Blood, and North and South Piegan. In this visually stunning survey, L. James Dempsey, a member of the Blood tribe, plumbs the breadth and depth of warrior representational art. He has mined archival resources and museum collections and interviewed many tribal members to provide a uniquely Native perspective on the importance of warrior art in Blackfoot history and culture. Filled with 160 images of startling beauty and power, Blackfoot War Art tells how pictographs served as a record of both tribal and personal accomplishment. This singular historical record of all available information on Blackfoot warrior pictography depicts painted robes; war tepee covers, liners, and doors; and painted panels. Dempsey provides descriptions and a great deal of other information about the pieces included here. His survey focuses especially on recent paintings that scholars have overlooked. In revealing changing trends in the representation of war, Dempsey skillfully weaves together pictures, people, and histories to convey a fascinating view of this warrior art from a Blood perspective.
In this visually stunning survey, L. James Dempsey plumbs the breadth and depth of warrior representational art. Filled with 160 images of startling beauty and power, Blackfoot War Art tells how pictographs served as a record of both tribal and personal accomplishment.
During much of the nineteenth century, paintings functioned as the Plains Indians’ equivalent to written records. The majority of their paintings documented warfare, focusing on specific war deeds. These pictorial narratives—appearing on hide robes, war shirts, tipi liners, and tipi covers—were maintained by the several dozen Plains Indians tribes, and they continue to expand historical knowledge of a people and place in transition. War Paintings of the Tsuu T’ina Nation is a study of several important war paintings and artifact collections of the Tsuu T’ina (Sarcee) that provides insight into the changing relations between the Tsuu T’ina, other plains tribes, and non-Native communities during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Arni Brownstone has meticulously created renderings of the paintings that invite readers to explore them more fully. All known Tsuu T’ina paintings are considered in the study, as are several important collections of Tsuu T’ina artifacts, with particular emphasis on five key works. Brownstone’s analysis furthers our understanding of Tsuu T’ina pictographic war paintings in relation to the social, historical, and artistic forces that influenced them and provides a broader understanding of pictographic painting, one of the richest and most important Native American artistic and literary genres.
David Silverman argues against the notion that Indians prized flintlock muskets more for their pyrotechnics than for their efficiency as tools of war. Native peoples fully recognized the potential of firearms to assist them in their struggles against colonial forces, and mostly against one another, as arms races erupted across North America.
In 1879, a Canadian Blackfoot known as Spopee, or Turtle, shot and killed a white man. Captured as a fugitive, Spopee narrowly escaped execution, instead landing in an insane asylum in Washington, D.C., where he fell silent. Spopee thus “disappeared” for more than thirty years, until a delegation of American Blackfeet discovered him and, aided by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, exacted a pardon from President Woodrow Wilson. After re-emerging into society like a modern-day Rip Van Winkle, Spopee spent the final year of his life on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana, in a world that had changed irrevocably from the one he had known before his confinement. Blackfoot Redemption is the riveting account of Spopee’s unusual and haunting story. To reconstruct the events of Spopee’s life—at first traceable only through bits and pieces of information—William E. Farr conducted exhaustive archival research, digging deeply into government documents and institutional reports to build a coherent and accurate narrative and, through this reconstruction, win back one Indian’s life and identity. In revealing both certainties and ambiguities in Spopee’s story, Farr relates a larger story about racial dynamics and prejudice, while poignantly evoking the turbulent final days of the buffalo-hunting Indians before their confinement, loss of freedom, and confusion that came with the wrenching transition to reservation life.
This absorbing volume examines cultural role of rock art for the Apsáalooke, or Crow, people of the northern Great Plains by examining collective concepts of landscape as well as shared memories of historic Crow culture.
Although ledger art has long been considered a male art form, Women and Ledger Art calls attention to the extraordinary achievements of four contemporary female Native artists—Sharron Ahtone Harjo (Kiowa), Colleen Cutschall (Oglala Lakota), Linda Haukaas (Sicangu Lakota), and Dolores Purdy Corcoran (Caddo). The book examines these women's interpretations of their artwork and their thoughts on tribal history and contemporary life.
In 2010, five magnificent Blackfoot shirts, now owned by the University of Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum, were brought to Alberta to be exhibited at the Glenbow Museum, in Calgary, and the Galt Museum, in Lethbridge. The shirts had not returned to Blackfoot territory since 1841, when officers of the Hudson’s Bay Company acquired them. The shirts were later transported to England, where they had remained ever since. Exhibiting the shirts at the museums was, however, only one part of the project undertaken by Laura Peers and Alison Brown. Prior to the installation of the exhibits, groups of Blackfoot people—hundreds altogether—participated in special “handling sessions,” in which they were able to touch the shirts and examine them up close. The shirts, some painted with mineral pigments and adorned with porcupine quillwork, others decorated with locks of human and horse hair, took the breath away of those who saw, smelled, and touched them. Long-dormant memories were awakened, and many of the participants described a powerful sense of connection and familiarity with the shirts, which still house the spirit of the ancestors who wore them. In the pages of this beautifully illustrated volume is the story of an effort to build a bridge between museums and source communities, in hopes of establishing stronger, more sustaining relationships between the two and spurring change in prevailing museum policies. Negotiating the tension between a museum’s institutional protocol and Blackfoot cultural protocol was challenging, but the experience described both by the authors and by Blackfoot contributors to the volume was transformative. Museums seek to preserve objects for posterity. This volume demonstrates that the emotional and spiritual power of objects does not vanish with the death of those who created them. For Blackfoot people today, these shirts are a living presence, one that evokes a sense of continuity and inspires pride in Blackfoot cultural heritage.
Gifts from the Thunder Beings examines North American Aboriginal peoples’ use of Indigenous and European distance weapons in big-game hunting and combat. Beyond the capabilities of European weapons, Aboriginal peoples’ ways of adapting and using this technology in combination with Indigenous weaponry contributed greatly to the impact these weapons had on Aboriginal cultures. This gradual transition took place from the beginning of the fur trade in the Hudson’s Bay Company trading territory to the treaty and reserve period that began in Canada in the 1870s. Technological change and the effects of European contact were not uniform throughout North America, as Roland Bohr illustrates by comparing the northern Great Plains and the Central Subarctic—two adjacent but environmentally different regions of North America—and their respective Indigenous cultures. Beginning with a brief survey of the subarctic and Northern Plains environments and the most common subsistence strategies in these regions around the time of contact, Bohr provides the context for a detailed examination of social, spiritual, and cultural aspects of bows, arrows, quivers, and firearms. His detailed analysis of the shifting usage of bows and arrows and firearms in the northern Great Plains and the Central Subarctic makes Gifts from the Thunder Beings an important addition to the canon of North American ethnology.
In 1870, the Bitterroot Salish Indians—called “Flatheads” by the first white explorers to encounter them—were a small tribe living on the western slope of the Northern Rocky Mountains in Montana Territory. Pressures on the Salish were intensifying during this time, from droughts and dwindling resources to aggressive neighboring tribes and Anglo-American expansion. In 1891, the economically impoverished Salish accepted government promises of assistance and retreated to the Flathead Reservation, more than sixty miles from their homeland. In Getting Good Crops, Robert J. Bigart examines the full range of available sources to explain how the Salish survived into the twentieth century, despite their small numbers, their military disadvantages, and the aggressive invasion of white settlers who greedily devoured their land and its natural resources. Bigart argues that a key to the survival of the Salish, from the early nineteenth century onward, was their diplomatic agility and willingness to form strategic alliances and friendships with non-Salish peoples. In doing so, the Salish navigated their way through multiple crises, relying more on their wits than on force. The Salish also took steps to sustain themselves economically. Although hunting and gathering had been their mainstay for centuries, the Salish began farming — “getting good crops” — to feed themselves because buffalo were becoming increasingly scarce. Raised on the Flathead Reservation himself, the author is seeking to convey the Salish story from their perspective, despite the paucity of written Salish testimony. What emerges is a picture — both inspiring and heartbreaking— of a people maintaining autonomy against all odds.