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Red Cloud skalpinge

2014.03.16

 

Red Cloud's Shirt

02. Red Cloud was a Lakota chief born in 1821 in what is now Nebraska. Through combat and horse raids against such traditional Lakota enemies as the Pawnee and Crow Indians Red Cloud gained prestige and became an important war leader. When the United States Army tried to open the Bozeman Trail through the traditional Lakota hunting lands of the Powder River in Wyoming, Red Cloud led a successful campaign against the army that resulted in the closure of the army's forts in the Treaty of Ft. Laramie in 1868. After visiting Washington D.C. in 1870 Red Cloud realized that the forces arrayed against his nation were formidable. He then began a long fight within the reservation system to protect the Lakota lands and rights. He "fought" a rear guard action against the United States Army and bureaucracy that helped keep the Lakota nation alive. He died in 1909.
03. For his first trip to Washington D.C. on behalf of the Lakota nation in 1870 Red Cloud was presented with a "leader shirt", replicated here by craftsman Larry Belitz. It was an unusually complicated shirt that bore objects and symbols meant to give power to Red Cloud, to protect him and to awe the white men he was going to see. A number of chiefs that accompanied Red Cloud to Washington D.C. were photographed wearing his shirt. When Red Cloud's delegation returned to South Dakota his shirt and other artifacts were misrouted and disappeared. Many years later the shirt was found in a chest that was identified as unclaimed baggage in a Minnesota railroad station.  It passed through a number of hands before coming to be owned by the Cody Museum in Cody, Wyoming.
The shirt was built from brain tanned deer hide. The blue and yellow colors were achieved by rubbing the hide with colored clays. The leather parts were sewn together with sinew, threadlike material obtained from the muscles along the spine of an animal. The fringes were dampened and twisted to make them more pleasing visually.
04. The Red Cloud shirt contains many unusual features. The main bands of beadwork found along the sleeves and over the shoulder as well as on the front and back was unusually wide. The cuffs are, according to Belitz, the only example where the cuffs are beaded.
The tabs that hang down repeat the red and blue pattern of the yoke.
05. Among the symbolic elements of the Red Cloud shirt are human and horse hair ties as well as square shaped "hail marks".

Each set of black human hair ties was donated by an individual Indian as a vote of confidence in Red Cloud's leadership. It was believed that the presentation of ones hair to the leader also gave him the power of the hair's original owner.

The lighter colored horse hair ties represented the many horses captured by Red Cloud in raids against the Lakota enemies. Such raids were very dangerous and often resulted in death for the raiders. Horses were believed to be related to thunder beings (their hooves pounded like thunder when they ran) and horse related items and symbols gave power to the wearer.

The small two colored squares represent hail marks. They were meant to give the shirt wearer protection from bullets as well as certain bad cosmic forces.

06. More durable than porcupine quills, the traditional decoration of the Plains Indians, imported glass beads from Italy became an important trade item obtained by the Indians from the Europeans. They were attached to brain tanned leather with thread like sinew fibers obtained from the backs of buffalo, elk or deer.

Different tribes favored different patterns and colors. Blue, white, red and yellow were popular colors among the Lakota. Green and pink were less popular but were favored by the Cheyenne Indians, longtime allies of the Lakota.

 

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