Archive for the 'cheyenne' Category

Object: Beaded Moccasins

Beaded Moccasins, 1 pair


Sam Noble Museum Ethnology Department

Probably 20th Century

Smoked Hide, Beads, string


sheehybrandon_82632_9643829_moccasin 1 - 1

While searching through the Sam Noble Museum Ethnology Database, a beautiful pair of moccasins caught my attention. The moccasins come from the Northern Cheyenne tribe. The Northern and Southern Cheyenne tribes began as one Cheyenne tribe. The Cheyenne occupied the woodland prairie of the Mississippi Valley until the 1680’s when the Sioux forced the Cheyenne to move because of trading with the French. The Cheyenne tribe moved west and continued to trade and were able to obtain horses. After receiving horsed the Cheyenne became a nomadic tribe and didn’t stabilize a position until the 1820’s in the Black Hills. From there, the tribe began to split as a result of part of the tribe staying in the Black Hills and the other began to move in a southwest direction. The tribes permanently separated into the Northern and Southern Cheyenne in the Treaty of 1851, which stopped Indian-Indian and Indian-White conflict from United States settlers[1]. After the split, the Northern Cheyenne grew close to the Sioux, and the tribes became allies to fight in the Battle of Little Big Horn[2].

The moccasins are made from smoked hide and are completely beaded with blue, green, red, yellow, and black beads. The beads were sewn on in the lane stitch style which is commonly used by both the Cheyenne and Sioux tribes[3]. This type of stitch consists of lanes of 7 to 11 beads that are all sewn at once. Although the lane stitch is used all over the moccasins, it is most easily seen on the top of them.

One thing that is prevalent in both the moccasins and the Northern Cheyenne tribe is the strong Sioux influence. As mentioned earlier the Northern Cheyenne and the Sioux fought together in the Battle of Little Big Horn. Due to this we know that there is a strong relationship between the two tribes. This relationship is shown in the moccasins through the style of beading, and the color of beading.

sheehybrandon_82632_9643830_moccasin 2 - 1

When beading the Sioux tend to use white or light blue as a background color with red, navy blue, green, and yellow as design colors, while the Cheyenne mainly use white as background color with blue, green, pink, and yellow as design colors[4]. As you can see from the moccasins, the colors used come from both the Sioux and the Northern Cheyenne styles. The lane stitch is also used by both tribes, which once again shows the relationship between the tribes.

In conclusion, the Northern Cheyenne moccasins are different from other moccasins because of the relationship that they portray. Through the colors of beading and the style of beading it is clear that these moccasins have Sioux influence.


((Brandon Sheehy))-Written as part of the ANTH1253 2018 Spring Semester Class Project


Cheyenne. Encyclopedia of World Cultures. Macmillan Reference USA




The Cheyenne Migrations. Native American Netroots., accessed February 26, 2018

Dean, David


Beading in the Native American tradition. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press

Reddick, Rex


Typical Tribal Bead Colors. Whispering Wind 40(2): 8–11., accessed February 19, 2018


Object: Bison Skull

Bison Skull
Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribe
Watonga, Oklahoma, USA
Unknown date
Materials: Bone and horn

This bison skull was found in Watonga, Oklahoma at the Cheyenne-Arapaho Opening by Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History donor, William H. Munger. The city, Watonga, is located in Blaine County and is 70 miles northwest of Oklahoma City.

The measurements of the skull are: 2’ long, 13” wide, and the horns are each 9” long. The skull measurements indicate that it is a North American species known as Bison bison, or the American bison. The primary traditional uses of a bison included consuming the meat and fat for food, and utilizing the bones and hides in making tools and clothing.

The Cheyenne-Arapaho Opening was an event where thousands of non-native people poured into Oklahoma to claim a portion of the 3.5 million acres of former Cheyenne-Arapaho land that had been confiscated by the federal government. These non-native people ventured into Oklahoma in carriages, wagons, and on horses in order to line up and run for land at noon. This Opening occurred on April 19, 1892, consisted of approximately 25,000 people, and it resulted in six new counties being formed in Oklahoma.

Food and water were scarce in the region, and people would find and sell bleached bison bones in order to survive. Not much is known about this skull, but it may have been bleaching in the sun when it was found by Mr. Munger.

Another bison skull found in Oklahoma is much older and is called the Cooper Skull, found in Harper County. It is currently on display at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in the Hall of the People of Oklahoma. It is the oldest painted object found in North America and is considered to be a part of the Folsom tradition. The skull is from a now-extinct bison and is around 10,000 years old. It has a red lightning bolt painted across the front. The paint symbolizes that the bison had a greater purpose in rituals, instead of being solely used for food, tools, or clothing purposes.

Although unsure of the original purpose for the bison skull found in Watonga, it is evident that bison have a long history of being used by people ranging from thousands of years ago through today. They serve multiple functions and have been a large part of Oklahoma history, whether through land runs such as the Cheyenne-Arapaho Opening or through Native American culture and rituals.

[Jaden Edwards]


Object: Tomahawk Pipe


Figure 1    Tomahawk pipe from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

Figure 1 Tomahawk pipe from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

Tomahawk Pipe
North America: Plains
c. 1880’s
Materials: Wood and iron alloy

This tomahawk pipe from the Ethnology Collection at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History has a wooden handle and a head made from an iron alloy. The pipe shaft is 22 5/16” long, 1 3/8” wide, and 15/16” high. The axe head is 9 1/8” long, 3 9/16” wide, and 1 1/4” high. The shaft is incised with both small pinpoint impressions and larger dark spots likely created with a heated tool. The small hole with the bit of string looped through it would have contained a leather strap at one time. This tomahawk pipe has a very interesting history and is an excellent example of how a seemingly simple item can tell a story about the people who collect and donate objects to museums.

When a thoughtful woman named Frances Surr from California donated twenty-two cherished family heirlooms, including this tomahawk pipe, to the Stovall Museum (now named the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History) in the early 1970s, she did so without any apparent personal connection to the University of Oklahoma or to the state itself.[1] So, why did she send her treasured items halfway across the country to reside in a museum she had never previously visited? For her the answer was simple: Place.

Figure 2    Darlington Agency, 1878. Courtesy, Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma.

Figure 2 Darlington Agency, 1878. Courtesy, Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma.

Surr’s father, Dr. Vernon W. Stiles, had collected the tomahawk pipe as a young pharmacist plying his trade at the Darlington Agency on the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indian Reservation between September 1883 and September 1885. The agency, established in 1870, sat on the northern bank of the Canadian River’s northern fork, just opposite a bustling U.S. Army outpost named Fort Reno (now El Reno, OK). Stiles worked for Hemphill & Woy, a pair of traders, and he interacted with Native Americans on a daily basis.[5] So, when Surr contemplated an appropriate new home for her presumably Cheyenne artifacts, she felt an obligation to “send the things back to their source.”[6] In this sense, “source” meant place of origin. For Frances Surr, a meaningful connection existed between her items and the history of the Cheyenne people, the history of her father, and the history of lives lived in Indian Territory (modern day Oklahoma).

What then can this tomahawk pipe tell us about life in and around the Darlington Agency during the late nineteenth century? What did it mean for the various people who possessed it? Did it function as an actual axe, as a pipe, as both, or did its owners give it an altogether different purpose?

While Vernon Stiles probably procured the tomahawk pipe in Oklahoma, its original place of creation is less certain. Considering that Stiles worked on the Cheyenne and Arapaho Reservation, museum officials originally assumed that the artifacts in the collection must be Cheyenne. The Cheyenne, however, sustained exchange networks across a wide expanse of the Great Plains from Montana to Texas. They traded goods and ideas with people from various Native American groups such as: the Osage, Ponca, Plains Apache, Comanche, Kiowa, Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw, and Seminole tribes.[7] Indeed, the Cheyenne often proved to be “highly effective middlemen” when it came to trading. [8]

Figure 3    Map of Indian Territory, 1866-1889.

Figure 3 Map of Indian Territory, 1866-1889.

Within those trade networks, similar tomahawk pipes were a common ceremonial gift across the continent during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The earliest examples appeared in the first half of the eighteenth century, and scholars generally agree that the first tomahawk pipes drew influence from both Native American and European technologies.[9] People typically used tomahawk pipes for ceremonial and display purposes, but there is some historical evidence of their use as functional tools.[10] Native peoples and European Americans exchanged tomahawk pipes to symbolically seal treaties and to acquire other goods. For instance, in 1804, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s Corps of Discovery brought 50 tomahawk pipes along on their famed journey of exploration and diplomacy.[11] Since the Cheyenne also used the reciprocal exchange of gifts to show respect for allies and to solidify agreements, this particular tomahawk pipe might very well have originated with a different group of people altogether.[12] Still, even if the Cheyenne did not produce the artifact, it is of a type that they would have found familiar. In fact, in 1996, a team of Cheyenne experts in consultation with Museum staff determined that the “[pipe] was not made by a Cheyenne.”[13] Yet, they permitted it to “be on display with Cheyenne [red pipe stone] pipes because of [its] trade metal.”[14]

Stiles lived at Darlington during a time of flux for the Native American inhabitants of the Cheyenne and Arapaho reservation. Many Cheyenne did not readily adapt to farming after being forcibly removed to Indian Territory from their ancestral homelands in Minnesota. Instead, the local agent, John D. Miles, established the Cheyenne-Arapaho Transportation Company which employed willing men as teamsters (wagon drivers) who freighted goods to Kansas railheads in Arkansas City and Wichita.[15] The Chisolm Trail, a great cattle-moving corridor between Texas and Kansas passed through the reservation, and many Cheyenne made a living from the cattle industry.[16]

As a clerk for Hemphill and Woy, Stiles had direct contact with prominent Cheyenne tribal members. Frances Surr attributed three of the artifacts in the collection, including the tomahawk pipe, to Chief Wolf Robe, as related to her by her father. One of the other artifacts, a war club, contains the initials W.R. etched into its handle. Without direct documentary evidence to prove an exchange took place between Stiles and Wolf Robe, we cannot say for certain that the items in question belonged to the Cheyenne chief. However, the two men almost certainly knew each given that Stiles held a conspicuous position at Darlington. Furthermore, the three items (the tomahawk pipe, the war club, and a headdress) would all be items a chief like Wolf Robe could have possessed. Wolf Robe frequently engaged in diplomatic encounters, and even traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet President Benjamin Harrison, who gifted the Cheyenne leader with a peace medal.[19] A chief accustomed to such diplomatic encounters could have easily received a tomahawk pipe like the one in the Stiles collection.

Figure 4    Chief Wolf Robe wearing the peace medal given to him by Benjamin Harrison. Wolf Robe holds a ceremonial pipe often called a calumet or “peace pipe”.  Courtesy of Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma Library.

Figure 4 Chief Wolf Robe wearing the peace medal given to him by Benjamin Harrison. Wolf Robe holds a ceremonial pipe often called a calumet or “peace pipe”. Courtesy of Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma Library.

Ultimately, regardless of the tomahawk pipe’s potential connections to Wolf Robe, the artifact itself offers fascinating insights into the complex nature of trade and reciprocal giving by people who lived in Indian Territory and throughout the Southern Plains. It also speaks to the social and economic transitions that occurred in the Southern Plains during the 1880’s. When Frances Surr felt the need to return the tomahawk pipe and other items to Oklahoma, she did so because she knew that they had much to say about life in Indian Territory in the late 19th century. Additionally, Darlington Agency’s place within Indian Territory shaped its history. Its proximity to railheads in Kansas, its position relative to other Native American lands, and its location on the Chisolm Trail all combined to frame life for the Cheyenne, Arapaho, and European Americans who lived there. Darlington Agency and Indian Territory shaped Vernon Stiles too, and he passed the memories of that place down to his children. The University of Oklahoma: a place that Frances Surr had never been, and yet the place that seemed most appropriate to deposit the material expressions of her precious memories of her father.

[Bryan Nies]


[1] According to the Kansas Historical Society, the word tomahawk “is a combination of tribal and English words. Algonquin and [Powatan] Renape peoples called their lightweight axes ‘tamahak,’ ‘tamahakan,’ or ‘tamahagan.’ European Americans pronounced these words as ‘tomahawk.’” See: Kansas Historical Society, “Cool Things – Pipe Tomahawk,” Kansapedia (September 2008, Modified December 2014) (accessed 20 March 2015).

[2] Letter from Frances Surr to Dr. Bell of the Stovall Museum, dated 5 November 1973.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Letter dated 7 September 1885, signed Hemphill & Woy. Held in the tomahawk pipe’s accession file.

[6] Letter from Frances Surr to Dr. Bell of the Stovall Museum, dated 5 November 1973.

[7] David LaVere, Contrary Neighbors: Southern Plains and Removed Indians in Indian Territory (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000), 222; K.N. Llewellyn and E. Adamson Hoebel, The Cheyenne Way: Conflict and Case Law in Primitive Jurisprudence (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1941), vii; See also, Donald J. Berthrong, The Cheyenne and Arapaho Ordeal: Reservation and Agency Life in the Indian Territory, 1875-1907 (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1976).

[8] Pekka Hämäläinen, “The Western Comanche Trade Center: Rethinking the Plains Indian Trade System,” The Western Historical Quarterly, vol. 29, no. 4 (Winter, 1998): 506-507.

[9] Kansas Historical Society, “Cool Things – Pipe Tomahawk,” Kansapedia (September 2008, Modified December 2014) (accessed 20 March 2015).

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Loretta Fowler, Tribal Sovereignty and the Historical Imagination: Cheyenne-Arapaho Politics (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2002), 4.

[13] NAGPRA findings 9/23/1996-9/25/1996, reported in Jethro Gaede, “A Time of Transition: Darlington Indian Agency and the Vernon W. Stiles Collection, 1883-1885 (Unpublished report compiled and held in artifact accession file, 2005-2006), 30.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Stan Hoig, Fort Reno and the Indian Territory Frontier (Fayetteville, AR: The University of Arkansas Press, 2000), 55-56; Stan Hoig, The Cheyenne: Indians of North America (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 2006), 86.

[16] Hoig, Fort Reno and the Indian Territory Frontier, 128-134.

[17] Ibid., 104-105, 139.

[18] Letter dated 7 September 1885, signed Hemphill & Woy. Held in the tomahawk pipe’s accession file.

[19] Francis Paul Prucha, Indian Peace Medals in American History (Bluffton, SC: Rivilo Books, 1994), 67-68; Stan Hoig, The Peace Chiefs of the Cheyennes (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980), 81.


Works Consulted:

1. Berthrong, Donald J. The Cheyenne and Arapaho Ordeal: Reservation and Agency Life in the Indian Territory, 1875-1907. Norman:University of Oklahoma Press, 1976.

2. Fowler, Loretta. Tribal Sovereignty and the Historical Imagination: Cheyenne-Arapaho Politics. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2002.

3. Gaede, Jethro. “A Time of Transition: Darlington Indian Agency and the Vernon W. Stiles Collection, 1883-1885. (Unpublished report compiled and held in artifact accession file, 2005-2006).

4. Hämäläinen, Pekka. “The Western Comanche Trade Center: Rethinking the Plains Indian Trade System.” The Western Historical Quarterly 29, no. 4 (Winter 1998): 506-507.

5. Hoig, Stan. The Cheyenne: Indians of North America. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 2006.

6. ——. Fort Reno and the Indian Territory Frontier. Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press, 2000.

7. ——. The Peace Chiefs of the Cheyennes. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980.

8. Kansas Historical Society, “Cool Things – Pipe Tomahawk,” Kansapedia (September 2008, Modified December 2014) (accessed 20 March 2015).

9. LaVere, David. Contrary Neighbors: Southern Plains and Removed Indians in Indian Territory. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000.

10. Llewellyn, K.N. and E. Adamson Hoebel. The Cheyenne Way: Conflict and Case Law in Primitive Jurisprudence. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1941.

11. Prucha, Francis Paul. Indian Peace Medals in American History. Bluffton, SC: Rivilo Books, 1994.

12. Surr-Stiles Collection. Accession No. E/1973/7/15, Ethnology Collection, Sam Noble Museum of Natural History, Norman, OK.

Photo Quiz Answer!

Thanks to everyone who took the quiz last week!

Now, what is this object?

Preparring the Headdress cropped


This large painted mural, measuring 8 feet 5 inches long by 4 feet 3 inches high, is by renowned Cheyenne painter Archie Blackowl (Indian name: Mis Ta Moo To Va (Flying Hawk)). Done in acrylic paint on canvas, this painting depicts nine human figures (three women and six men) siting inside of a tipi engaged in a ceremony.  A blue tipi liner with rows of beadwork covering its surface and round beaded medallions at its upper edge decorates the area behind the figures.  A painted buffalo skull is displayed on the wall of the tipi in the center of the scene.  Two headdresses and a pipe bag are resting on the ground near the figures, and two of the figures are holding hand drums. The painting is completed in what is considered traditional “flatstyle” (or Bacone style), where there is no real desire to depict depth, or three-dimensional space. Instead, bold colors and lines, influenced in part by the Art Deco style, emphasize ethnographic accuracy of the scene.

Archie Blackowl (23 Nov 1911 – Sep 1992), who worked from the mid- to late-20th century, was trained at Ft. Sill Indian School in Lawton, OK, the Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, KS, the Chicago Art Institute, and the University of Oklahoma. Blackowl led a varied life working as a teacher, an industrial painter for the aircraft industry, and even employed by Walt Disney Studios. But, his passion was always painting. Encouraged by his mentor Woodrow Wilson (Woody) Crumbo, Blackowl played a pivotal role in mid-20th century Native American art. Considered one of the most important Oklahoma traditional painters, Blackowl’s work captured the traditional Southern Plains culture and life. “Leave a mark. Put something down so that when the young people see it they will understand.” –Archie Blackowl, July, 1975

Drop by the University of Oklahoma’s Oklahoma Memorial Union to see this amazing piece for yourself! Just head to the second floor of the Union, and it will be on the North Wall of Beaird Memorial Lounge!

[Stephanie Lynn Allen]

Object: Saddle

Cheyenne (Believed to have belonged to Henry Roman Nose)
North America: United States
ca. 1870s
Materials: Wood, leather, sheep skin, metal

Paleontologists have discovered fossils of early horses in North America as far back as the Pleistocene epoch, 1.8 million to 10,000 years ago. However, sometime around 8,000-10,000 years ago horses became extinct in the Americas. Horses were only reintroduced to the American continents in the 16th century by Spanish explorers. The Spanish brought a number of types of horses with them over the years and many of these animals escaped into the wild. These horses are the source of the wild mustang herds that would eventually become so synonymous with the American West. Within roughly a century of being reintroduced to North America, horses were adopted by many Native American tribal groups.

While Native Americans borrowed some horse riding techniques and technology from the Spanish they were also quick to develop their own distinct types of tack. Two of the major types of Native American saddles were the pad saddle, and the wood (or woman’s) saddle. The pad saddle may have been adapted from the Spanish pack saddle and consisted of two leather cushions stuffed with grass or animal hair that were sewn together and  secured to the horse by a leather girth. Some pad saddles had a piece of rawhide between the two pads that would act as a seat for the rider and covered the girth attachments. Stirrups could also be hung from this rawhide strip. This type of saddle was preferred by men for hunting and warfare.  The wood (or woman’s) saddle was made of a wooden frame covered in rawhide and often decorated with beading and fringe. The frame was made of two roughly rectangular pieces of flat wood called sideboards that were connected by two forks of wood that formed the pommel and cantle. The top of each fork was bent outward, away from the rider. The entire frame would then be covered in rawhide, padding was added under the sideboards, and a girth would secure the saddle to the horse. Some wood saddles also had a strip of rawhide attached between the pommel and cantle for the seat, others placed a buffalo robe or blanket over the saddle frame for a more padded seat. This type of saddle was typically used by women. It could also be used to teach young children to ride and was helpful for attaching packs and materials to the horse for transport. One variation of the wood saddle is the so called “prairie chicken snare saddle.” This type may have been a modification of the wood saddle and appears to have been developed later. In this type of saddle the sideboards and girth were the same as that of the wood saddle. However, the pommel and cantle were formed out of elk or deer antlers and some had D-shaped flaps attached to facilitate attaching packs. This type of saddle was a multipurpose type that was used by older men, children and some women as a riding and pack saddle.

This saddle at the Sam Noble Museum is a variation of the wood saddle type and is reported to have belonged to Henry Roman Nose. Roman Nose (aka Woquini meaning “Hook Nose”) was born in 1856 and became a formidable Cheyenne warrior. In 1875 he was arrested along with other warring Cheyennes at the agency at Darlington. After his arrest he was sent to Ft. Marion in St. Augustine, Florida where he learned English. He was later moved to Virginia where he converted to Christianity and was baptized as Henry Caruthers Roman Nose. He learned tinsmith at a boarding school in Pennsylvania before returning to his homeland in 1881, eventually settling in Blaine County, OK. [Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]

Object: Hairbrush

North America: Plains
ca. 1890
Materials: Porcupine tail, wood, glass beads

Haircare has always been an important part of the daily human routine. Besides just maintaining a clean and healthy appearance, hairstyles can express individuality or identify an individual as part of a specific group. Changing your hairstyle can even make a difference in how you are perceived by others.  A different hair color could effect how old you look, and a different cut or style could make you seem either rebellious or old-fashioned. Pre-contact Native American tribes were no less conscious of hair care and styling that we are today, and they had nearly as many styling products. Hair was shined with animal fat, and was sometimes colored or decorated with colored clay. Some tribes even had techniques to lengthen their hair in a way similar to modern hair extensions or weaves. Certain hairstyles were more closely associated with one tribal group than others. For instance, men of the Kanien’kehake (Mohawk) tribe were known for shaving portions of their head, men of the Apsáalooke (Crow) tribe tended to prefer a pompadour style, while women of the Hopi tribe twisted their hair around circular bands to create a style that resembled butterfly wings on the side of their heads.

This object is a hairbrush made from the tail of a porcupine. It is made by sewing the bottom portion of the porcupine’s tail, where the quills tend to be smaller, around a wooden stick. The seam where the tail is sewn together is frequently decorated with glass beadwork. This type of hairbrush was common among many plains tribes. Porcupines are a type of plant eating rodent best known for their quills. The North American porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) is the largest species of porcupine in the world. A porcupine may have as many as 30,000 quills on its body. The quills are a special type of hair with barbed tips on the ends. Quills are solid at the tip and base and hollow for most of the shaft. Porcupines use their quills for self defense but, can not “shoot” them at predators. Instead the quills simply detach easily from the porcupine’s body on contact, typically ending up in the mouth or claws of the attacker.  [Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]

Object: Necklace

Choker (Necklace)

Collected among the Cheyenne, Western Oklahoma, USA
September 1883–September 1885
Materials: Glass Seed Beads, Horse Hair, Leather

Not all objects found in museum collections are in a condition suitable for traditional exhibition. This necklace, or “choker,” fragment is a useful example of a piece that would likely never be included in a public exhibition due to its fragile state; however, here we are able to highlight its importance to SNOMNH’s collections and use it as a vehicle for discussion on a variety of subjects.

This style choker was at one time worn by both women and men from a wide distribution of tribes found in the Midwest, specifically the around the Great Lakes and in Prairie (Eastern Plains) region. The technique used to create this choker is called side-stitch. This is a hand-woven, or more precisely “oblique interlacing” technique of beadwork that creates diagonal rows. This particular choker was constructed using black horse hair—a material that was later replaced by commercially available threads. The use of horse hair in its construction and the subsequent use by the donor’s family as a plaything have contributed to the current condition of this object.

In 1973, a collection of American Indian objects were donated to SNOMNH (formerly the Stovall Museum) by Mrs. John Surr, daughter of Dr. Vernon W. Stiles. Dr. Stiles worked for the Indian Traders, Hemphill and Way, at the Darlington Indian Agency, Indian Territory, between September 1883 and 7 September 1885. During his two-year employment as a salesman, Dr. Stiles had the opportunity to meet and trade with many Cheyenne and Arapahos in the local Native community. It was during this time that the choker came into Dr. Stiles’s possession.

Knowledge of where an object was acquired and who collected it can create inaccurate identification because the person who last owned an object was often not its maker. In fact, trade in objects was, and continues to be, a very common practice between Native peoples. Because this choker was collected among the Cheyenne and donated along with other items identifiable as Cheyenne material, it was labeled “Cheyenne.” As mentioned earlier, this style choker was common to a wide distribution of tribes; however, the Cheyenne were not among this group. It is possible that the choker was acquired in trade from another tribe, or perhaps, someone from another tribe married into a Cheyenne family bringing this piece or the construction technique with them. It is also quite possible that a Cheyenne beadworker learned this beadwork technique and produced it themselves, which would make the “Cheyenne” label accurate. Without any further information on who exactly made the choker it is impossible to say with certainty from which tribe this object originated.

To learn more about this style of choker, see Georg J. Barth (1993:145-158) and David Dean (2002) for details on the side-stitch technique. Also see Gaylord Torrence (1989:16) on the use of side-stitch chokers. For more information on the Cheyenne and Arapaho, see here or for more information about the Darlington Indian Agency see here.

SNOMNH invites your comments on this choker or any of the other topics addressed above. [John P. Lukavic]

Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.


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