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Beauty, Honor, and Tradition

The Legacy of Plains Indian Shirts

2001

Joseph D. Horse Capture

Beauty, Honor, and Tradition

Celebrating the power, artistry, and history of these Plains Indian masterpieces.

To the Plains Indians of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, elaborately decorated hide shirts were symbols of bravery earned only by the most courageous of warriors. Beauty, Honor, and Tradition, a traveling exhibition organized by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, presents a new perspective on these garments, their creation and history, and their place in the cultures of the Plains Indian tribes. Through photographs and detailed descriptions of fifty-three representative shirts crafted from the 1820s to the 1990s, this book explores the complex relationship between the shirts, their makers, and their wearers.

The exhibition of Plains Indian shirts, for which this book is the catalog, was assembled by the Horse Captures, father and son, who are affiliated, respectively, with the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Their combined resources provide stunning examples of the honor shirts worn by leaders of Plains tribes in the past-and a few from the present.

Library Journal

To the Plains Indians of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, elaborately decorated hide shirts were symbols of bravery earned only by the most courageous of warriors. Those who had met the enemy in battle or slipped undetected into enemy camps to capture horses were awarded shirts specifically created to honor the wearer and the heroic deeds associated with him. Made from the skins of elk, deer, or mountain sheep, these spectacular garments were adorned with porcupine quills, paint, ribbons, locks of hair, and glass beads. Believed to hold intrinsic spiritual power, these shirts continue to play a large part in American Indian society today. Symbolizing honor, courage, and ancestral tradition, they are worn by tribal leaders at powwows and earned by students according to their academic and athletic accomplishments.

Beauty, Honor, and Tradition, a traveling exhibition organized by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, presents a new perspective on these garments, their creation and history, and their place in the cultures of the Plains Indian tribes. Through photographs and detailed descriptions of fifty-three representative shirts crafted from the 1820s to the 1990s, this book explores the complex relationship between the shirts, their makers, and their wearers. Throughout the text the voices of individual Plains Indians speak of the personal and cultural significance of these magnificent garments.

Distributed for the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian

Beauty, Honor, and Tradition

Joseph D. Horse Capture is assistant curator in the Department of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. They are coauthors of Warrior Artists (1998).

George P. Horse Capture is deputy assistant director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, and author of Powwow (1992).

Beauty, Honor, and Tradition

The exhibition of Plains Indian shirts, for which this book is the catalog, was assembled by the Horse Captures, father and son, who are affiliated, respectively, with the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Their combined resources provide stunning examples of the honor shirts worn by leaders of Plains tribes in the past-and a few from the present.

Library Journal

The publication of Beauty, Honor, and Tradition is an important contribution to Native American art studies in general and to Plains Indian art in particular. The beauty and elegance of Plains Indian shirts should grip any admirer of Native American cultures. The display and survey of these amazing creations presented here evoke new, informed inquiries.

Great Plains Quarterly

This book is clearly written and beautifully designed. It is the most accessible and well illustrated book now available on Plains war shirts and belongs in the library of costume scholars and historians.

Dress