The Ghost Dance shirt, circa late 1800s, is likely Arapaho. Made from soft leather and decorated with long fringe, the painted designs are representative. Stars, which signify the heavens, are one of the most common motifs seen on these shirts. The black birds signify open-beaked crows, and the white-winged birds are magpie, both of which were depicted as messengers from the spirit world among the Cheyenne and Arapaho. Ghost Dance shirts were an important part of the Ghost Dance religious movement. Many of their wearers believed that these garments made them bulletproof and impervious to harm.
Plains Trade Blanket Coat
The Plains trade blanket coat, circa late 1800s, is a unique garment cut from a trade blanket and tailored in the manner of an overcoat. Accented with a variety of buttons and silk, blanket strips were used as decorative trim at the cuffs and shoulders. The coat is attributed to famed Hunkpapa Lakota holy man and leader Sitting Bull. Reportedly, Sitting Bull gave the coat to the wife of a Lieutenant Johnson, whose charge was a Native American person quartered with Sitting Bull in the Freedmen’s Hospital (now known as Howard University Hospital) in Washington, D.C. A handwritten note consistent with the time period is attached inside the coat and details this story.
Ojibwe Wolf War Club
The Ojibwe wolf war club, circa 1820, from Minnesota is one of the finest in existence. A variant of the ball-headed war clubs that were favored in the eastern Woodlands, the effigy on the club is thought to represent a wolf, which may relate to the existence of Wolf clans in tribes of the Great Lakes region.
Human Effigy Pipe
The 18th century eastern Woodlands human effigy pipe is carved from maple wood and depicts a reclining man with a slightly opened mouth and protruding tongue, which is thought to indicate speaking or singing. Imitation wampum made from glass beads is strung across his shoulder, and the lead inlay at the top of his head probably represents the cloth turban headdress adopted by many eastern Native Americans during that time. Wooden pipes are extremely fragile compared to their durable stone counterparts, and very few pipes fashioned from wood during this time period have remained intact.