Late 19th-Century American Indian Clothing
A pipe bag, made to hold a pipe bowl and stem, is made in a design typical of the Lakotas of the 1880s.
These moccasins were made in northern Montana in the 1880s by members of the Assiniboine tribe.
Beginning in the 1830s, the U.S. federal government moved thousands of American Indians from Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee and resettled them in Oklahoma. By 1907, when Oklahoma became the 46th state to enter the Union, more than 30 tribes had been given federal land there. As increasing numbers of settlers and ranchers moved west, however, clashes developed as whites sought to take over American Indian lands. The clothing and objects presented in this ANTIQUES ROADSHOW video were a gift to the superintendent of the Wichita National Grasslands in Oklahoma, who in 1930 removed a group of ranchers whose animals were grazing illegally in Indian territory.
To express their thanks to the superintendent, the American Indians assembled a diverse collection of objects. Among them are an adolescent child's dress, moccasins, a knife saber case, and a pipe bag. Several tribes — including Lakota, Cheyenne, and Assiniboine — are represented within this collection, which contains items created in the 1880s and 1890s. The appraiser notes that children's items, such as the dress, are particularly valuable and desirable; he also praises the fine detail, colorful symbols, and exceptional craftsmanship of the items.
A Closer Look
- Describe one or more of the items in this collection as if you were preparing an entry for a museum catalog. What materials were used in the creation of these objects? What is distinctive about each piece? What is typical of each piece as described by the appraiserAn expert who assesses the value, quality, and authenticity of works of art or other objects.? What skills were needed to make these objects?
- As you look at this collection of objects, what can you deduce about American Indian cultures in the 1880s and 1890s? (Possible answers include: They had to protect themselves or fight; they smoked pipes; children participated in rituals; they had tools.)
- What kinds of tools do you think were involved in the making of each of these objects? Explain.
- Why does the appraiser speculate that this gift represented a special tribute to the owner's great-uncle?
- What are pictographs? (They are graphic symbols or characters used in picture writing.) What is a bifurcated tongue? (A bifurcated tongue is a shoe tongue with two parts.) How do these elements add value to the items in this collection?
- Can you imagine someone in the future paying $7,000 for a pair of your shoes? Why or why not? Why do you think a collector would be willing to pay that much money for the moccasins that are part of this collection?
Activities and Investigations
- Investigate the tradition of beadwork in American Indian cultures. Then create a beaded object of your own and explain the significance of the beads you have used.
- After taking a closer look at the Sioux adolescent dress, choose an article of clothing that American settlers might have worn, or choose one from our time that you or your friends wear, and describe it from the point of view of an ethnographer (someone who studies a foreign culture by immersing himself or herself in it). Questions you might explore include: What material is it made of? What colors are used, and are they of any particular significance? Does it appear to be made by hand or machine? Can you tell anything about the wearer's socio-economic status from this item? What does this piece of clothing reveal about American settlers or contemporary American values, beliefs, and habits?
- Choose one of the American Indian cultures featured in the ANTIQUES ROADSHOW video. Find another object from this culture's everyday or ceremonial life to learn more about. Create a representation of the object, using any media you choose, and present it to the class along with an explanation of the object's significance.
For Further Exploration
National Museum of the American Indian
Extensive information and online exhibitions about the life, languages, literature, history, and arts of American Indians.
Native American Beadwork
A richly illustrated site devoted to traditional and contemporary Native American beadwork, with links to Indian beading artists from several different tribes.
Native American Art Projects
by Susan Major-Tingey (Scholastic, 1995)
Introduces a wide array of Native American artistic traditions and several related art projects for children and teens.
Becoming Brave: The Path to Native American Manhood
by Laine Thom (Chronicle Books, 1992)
Photos and descriptions of tools, clothing, and weapons that highlight the key events and myths around which Native American boys and men shaped their lives.
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