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Horses on the Plains

This exhibit takes a look into the role of horses in Plains Indian cultures.

A Buffalo Bill Center of the West Virtual Exhibit
Curated by: Sam Schwarting


NA.403.97
Northern Plains | Sioux | pa...
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Exhibit notes: Pad Saddle: This type of saddle would have been used more by men than women. They were designed to be comfortable for both man and horse. They were also designed to give riders a larger range of motion then other saddles, which was useful in battle.

Museum record: NA.403.97 | ca. 1900 | L: 21.25 in, width: 29 in, H: 2.25 in | Gift of Mrs. F.W. Watrous. The Colonel John F. Guilfoyle, U.S. Cavalry West Point 1877, Collection of American Indian Material. | Transportation: Land Transportation. Leather with two metal loops for cinch strap. Edges bound with red cloth which has deteriorated, floral head decoration on each corner in pink, yellow, blue, green and red on white ground; design for one end and a different one for the other. Flaps hang off each corner, bead floral decoration on canvas backing in blue, green, pink, red and yellow on white ground. Flaps have blue wool cloth edging with white beads; one blue piece has been added recently, fringe on each flap is white, green; brown transparent beads with red yarn ends. | NA.403.97view2.JPG | NA.403.97dtl.JPG | NA.403.97.jpg | floral | pad saddle | glass beads | cotton thread | sinew | Cotton cloth | hair stuffing | tanned hide | cotton twine | commercially tanned hide | Northern Plains | Sioux

NA.403.78
Northern Plains | Cheyenne |...
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Exhibit notes: Woman's Saddle: When horses were first introduced to the Americas, most Natives took to riding them bareback. Saddles weren't commonly used until after exposure to European culture. Men's saddles had shorter horns.

Museum record: NA.403.78 | ca. 1890 | H: 12.125 in, depth: 22.25 in, width: 8.75 in, L: 29.25 x 30 in | Gift of Anne T. Black | Transportation: Land Transportation. Woman's -- Rawhide covered wood with leather fringe at front and back and rawhide covered stirrups. | NA.403.78.JPG | saddle | rawhide | leather | wood | Northern Plains | Cheyenne

NA.403.6
Montana | Crow | saddle | ho...
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Exhibit notes: Stirrups: Beaded stirrups, like these ones, are strictly parade attire. Women of some tribes would adorn themselves and their horses for special occasions, such as moving camp. Decorations like this are still used in parades today.

Museum record: NA.403.6 | ca. 1900 | L: 17 in, beaded pendant front length: 10.625 in, beaded pendant back length: 11.5 in | Adolf Spohr Collection; Gift of Larry Sheerin. | Transportation: Land Transportation. Woman's -- Elk horn pommel and cantle covered with buckskin, wooden frame covered with rawhide. Red and green cloth tabs with overlay bead decoration in geometric design extending from pommel and cantle, beaded border halfway around each horn. Rawhide covered wooden stirrups with white bead decoration, painted dark blue. Beaded tabs extending from each stirrup in geometric design. Red cloth and white bead border. Stirrups attached with buckskin thongs. Buckskin fringe extending from bottom of horns. | na.403.6ab.jpg | geometric | saddle | horn | elk | pigment | Buckskin | cloth | trade | seed | wood | rawhide | glass beads | Montana | Crow

NA.403.46
Northern Plains | Crow | bri...
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Exhibit notes: Bridle: This is a newer style of bridle and was most likely used mainly for parades and other celebrations. Older and more commonly used bridles were known as "war bridles" and consisted of a single cord looped around the horse's jaw with either one or two reins.

Museum record: NA.403.46 | ca. 1890 | bit width: 3.75 in | Gift of Irving H. "Larry" Larom Estate. | Transportation: Land Transportation. Rawhide headstall and brow band and forehead decoration. Painted red with lazy stitch blue bead borders on side straps. Over head piece covered with brown cloth, brass bead and seed bead decoration. Edges have yarn border (green, blue, red, white and yellow). Overlay bead forehead decoration in multi-colored geometric design and yellow horse hair and white bead tassles along bottom edge. Spanish style iron spade and ring bit with chain tassle decoration. | na.403.46.jpg | geometric | bridle | deer hide | brass | yarn | trade | seed | glass beads | Horse Hair | cloth | rawhide | iron | tanned | Northern Plains | Crow

NA.403.221
Blackfoot | Kainai | Canada ...
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Exhibit notes: Horse Mask: Horse masks were generally used only for parades and ceremonies because they restricted a horse's eyesight, but occasionally they may have been worn into battle. This particular one only covers the face, but others have been made that also cover the neck and chest. Materials used for masks range from leather, fabric, and quillwork to glass beads as shown here.

Museum record: NA.403.221 | ca. 1870 | width: 20 in, L: 13 in | The Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection, acquired through the generosity of the Dyck family and additional gifts of the Nielson Family and the Estate of Margaret S. Coe | Fully beaded mask bordered or fringed in feathers - typical of Blackfoot or Blackfeet. "Star" on either side, as well as "boxed hourglass." yellow looped beads at eye holes = "Thunder" Feat in book, "American Indian Horse Masks," 206. by Michael Condrey, pg. 31. | NA.403.221.v1.jpg | NA.403.221.v2.jpg | horse mask | silk ribbon | cotton thread | tanned hide | glass beads | common raven feathers | Blackfoot | Kainai | Canada

NA.403.87
Blackfeet | Northern Plains ...
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Exhibit notes: Horse Chest Decoration: Horses quickly became very important and almost necessary for some tribes once they were introduced, especially plains tribes. For many Native cultures, decorating something was a way to honor and represent importance.

Museum record: NA.403.87 | 1930 | width: 21.375 in | Transportation: Land Transportation. Cresent shaped, canvas backed. Center diamond in orange, blue and green design in between two black, orange and green triangles. Two orange and blue triangles on each side. Pattern is on a white ground. | na.403.87.jpg | NA.403.87.JPG | Diamond | triangles | horse chest decoration | blue | green | Beads | orange | black | canvas | seed | White | Blackfeet | Northern Plains

NA.403.120
Sioux | South Dakota | rope ...
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Exhibit notes: Horse Hair Rope: Horses weren't only viewed as transportation, but also as a source for needed materials. Making rope from the horse's hair decreased the need to purchase rope at trading posts.

Museum record: NA.403.120 | ca. 1870 | Diameter: .417 in | Chandler-Pohrt Collection, Gift of Mr. William D. Weiss | Transportation: Land Transportation. Braided horse? hair; dark brown, knotted at one end; broken and tied together near one end. | NA.403.120.JPG | NA.403.120.JPG | rope | knotted | braided | dark brown | hair | horse | Sioux | South Dakota

NA.108.30
Sioux | Fort Yates, North Da...
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Exhibit notes: Jawbone Club: Weapons like this were made from either a sharpened buffalo, elk, or horse jawbone. They were used more when close combat was common, but they, along with many other weapons, fell out of favor when guns and metal weapons were introduced to the Americas.

Museum record: NA.108.30 | 1945 | L: 26.25 in, width: 6.5 in | Utensils and implements - Fighting. War club - wood handle covered with rawhide and fur. Horses jawbone with teeth, stained red. | NA.108.30.JPG | NA.108.30.jpg | war club | jawbone | fur | rawhide | wood | handle | horse | Sioux | Fort Yates, North Dakota

NA.507.90
Northern Plains | toy horse ...
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Exhibit notes: Toy Horse: At first, horses were thought of simply as creatures that could be used for travel, but they eventually came to be a far more integral part of Native culture. Toy horses, such as these, were often given to children.

Museum record: NA.507.90 | H: 13.75 in, width: 4.5 in, L: 13 in | Simplot Collection, Gift of J.R. Simplot | Ritual and Recreation, Toys. Toy horse/saddle/saddlebags. Hand tanned white buckskin, rawhide and canvas. Beads are lustre, seed, silver, brass and clear. Wooden legs and frame are cottonwood. | Book: Welcome to Kaya's World, 1764, Growing Up in a Native American Homeland; The American Girls Collection; Pleasant Company Publications; Middleton, WI; 2003; front cover , and page 14 | NA.507.90.jpg | NA.507.90.JPG | toy horse | canvas | tanned | deer hide | Horse Hair | seed beads | rawhide | cotton wood | Northern Plains

NA.202.598
South Dakota | Sioux | shirt...
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Exhibit notes: Shirt: A common belief among Native American tribes was that having a piece of an animal would grant you the power of that animal. Many articles of clothing, like this shirt of Red Cloud's, had hair from their prized and trusted horses.

Museum record: NA.202.598 | 1870s | L: 42.5 in, width: 58 in | Adolf Spohr Collection, Gift of Larry Sheerin | Dress and Adornment: Daily and/or Festive Adornment. Man's (Red Cloud) -- Deerskin, fringe. Upper portion painted blue, lower portion yellow with yellow, orange and brown lines in between. Triangular tabs on front and back of neck decorated with red and blue wool and beading in white, red, blue, green, turquoise and yellow. Lazy stitch beaded strips over shoulders and on each sleeve. Panels with turquoise diamond designs on dark blue ground also with white, green, yellow, red and pink on strips. Upper portion and sleeves also have small beaded squares in red and pink or turquoise and yellow. Human hair bundles run over shoulders and on sleeves, most dark but some light horse hair bundles. Bundles wrapped with undyed porcupine quills and attached to blue beads. Tabs at bottom on each side decorated with triangular piece of red and blue wool with white, blue and green beaded border. | Book: juvenile, Discovering the Arts, Native American Culture, by Katherine Gleason, Rourke Publishing LLC, Vero Beach, 2006, (received Sept. 2005) | NA.202.598Dk.JPG | NA.202.598view1.JPG | NA.202.598view2.JPG | NA.202.598.jpg | strips | Diamond | triangular | squares | shirt | human hair | Horse Hair | deer hide | Glass seed beads | pigment | porcupine quills | wool | South Dakota | Sioux