THE HANSKASKA : THE SHIRT WEARERS
A private Museum exhibiting the Regalia of 12 Historically Important Plains
Re-created from historic photographs, paintings, and oral history.
Cathy Smith was commissioned in January of 1996 to re-create the material
culture of twelve historically important Plains Indian leaders for a private
museum in Santa Fe, NM. The collection consists of the regalia, clothing,
and accouterments of each personage as determined from historical photographs,
paintings, and informants, both living and historically researched.
Over 60 individual pieces in total, the collection required four years
to execute. The research and accumulation of understanding and artistic
skill took twenty-five years.
Each item was created in the same way as it was originally made, using
the same materials and techniques of production: Bighorn Sheep, antelope,
buffalo, and deer hides tanned with brains, original stock seed and pony
beads, naturally dyed porcupine quills, sinew or linen thread, original
trade items such as wool stroud, brass hawk bells, buttons, silk ribbon,
etc. The only concession to authenticity was the use of hand-painted turkey
feathers in place of eagle, hawk, and owl.
The result is one of the finest collections of material culture of the
Plains Indian gathered in one location. Its real significance lies in
the fact that these are reproductions of documented pieces, the majority
of which are not in existence ( or at least accessible to viewing), except
in rare historical photographs or paintings. Since the recent repatriation
laws discourage the purchase and private ownership of historical Native
American art, reproducing these pieces allows them to be seen and appreciated
in a politically and spiritually correct genre.
Further, the educational value of reproduction should not be underestimated:
Many of the techniques used in the construction of this collection are
all but lost or practiced by very few. This is a way of documenting the
knowledge, keeping an art form alive, and passing it on to future generations.
And possibly more importantly, the meaning and spiritual significance
of the various rare materials, patterns of design, and ceremony that accompanies
it all is being documented and preserved. The work in this collection
has not been done in the last century, at least to this extent.
It is a chance to pass along the artistic skills and methods of a spiritually
imbued culture, and at the same time, bring to life the regalia of historically
important leaders, in one location.
The work was done by Cathy Smith [ Wiyak'pa Win] and the artisans under
her tutelage. Cathy grew up in South Dakota among the Lakota of Cheyenne
River Reservation. She has spent her entire adult life researching, restoring,
and recreating the material culture of the Plains Indian. She learned
porcupine quillwork in the holy way, through ceremony and apprenticeship
with Mrs. Bertha Hump, one of the last of the Double Woman Dreamers among
the Mniconjou, and thus earned the privilege to do this skilled work.
She is also a SunDancer and a practitioner of the spiritual ways of her
Hunka-Ate, Kenneth YoungBear, which gave her the depth of understanding
to attempt a work of this significance. Her connection to and association
with the elders of the Plains peoples gave her ability to research obscure
and esoteric information an added dimension.
The collection consists of the shirts, leggings, moccasins, bonnets, and
accouterments of the following twelve historical personages:
As painted by Karl Bodmer in 1832:
Mato Tope, Mandan
Periska Rhupa, Hidatsa
From Smithsonian photographs:
Red Cloud, Oglala
Kicking Bear, Mniconjou
Medicine Crow, Crow
Petalasharo, Grand Pawnee
Mountain Chief, Blackfoot
Chief Joseph, Nez Perce
Little Chief, Suhtai Cheyenne
Little Wolf, N. Cheyenne
Quanah Parker, Comanche
Crazy Horse, Mniconjou/Oglala from ledger drawing & personal informants