Posts Tagged 'Native American'

Carved Horn Bugle from the American West

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Figure 1. Horn Bugle from the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum Natural History, Ethnology Collection. E/1951/01/036 Photo Taken 2017 by Christina Naruszewicz

E/1951/01/036

Cow Horn Bugle

Texas, United States

1890

Cow Horn, Fabric Strap

 

This bugle from the collection of the Sam Noble Museum is an intriguing artifact. It has several etched details on its surface. Towards the lip of the bugle is a cross-hatching design which continues for roughly four inches. This is hardly the most exciting aspect of the bugle, however. There are also several drawings of animals, including what appears to be two dogs, an eagle, and a horse with saddle and bridle. A detailed drawing of a rifle or shot gun is also meticulously carved. The most puzzling engraving on the surface of the bugle is a set of initials and a date reading: “FBC January 3, 1890.” Who was FBC and what is the significance of the date? Sadly, it is likely this detail about the horn bugle will remain a mystery. Despite this, we can wonder about the person or persons that handled this object through history and we can play detective about its role in their lives.

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Horn of this type can be used to create a variety of objects, including gun powder containers, combs, and cups. (1) Through a process of boiling or soaking the horn, it can also be softened, and cut into sheets for later use. (2) Bugles or signals made from animal horn are some of the earliest and most commonly created musical instruments. This quick video shows the process of creating a traditional Viking horn bugle that is very similar to the one in the collection.  .

The uses for horn bugles vary from the scared and ceremonial, to the mundane and functional. One example of a ceremonial significant bugle is the Jewish shofar. The shofar is an instrument traditionally made from ram horn. (2) The shofar is blown on special occasions, such as the beginning of the month, and at sacrificial or peace offerings. In the Bible, the shofar is said to have brought down the walls of Jericho.

In medieval Persia, animal horns were also used to create simple trumpets. These often had holes bored into the side, which could produce several musical tones. (3) Examples of similar bugles called the si, can be seen in Sumeria, one the earliest civilizations. Likewise, similar horn instruments were created in India, Greece, Europe, Africa, and elsewhere.

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Figure 4. An example of a traditional Jewish Shofar, made from ram horn.

In the American colonies, the horn bugle has a history of being used as a long distance signal for battle or hunting. When a bugle or trumpet of this type is used during a hunt, it acts as a signal to the entire hunting party. It signals when a hunt has ended, or a target (such as a deer) has been located. By 1765 military or musical trumpets made from brass became popular, with many imported from Europe. (4) Due to the popular importation of brass instruments for concerts and military purposes, we can assume that this bugle was not imported. It is likely the Sam Noble’s animal horn bugle was made in Texas, Oklahoma, or another nearby state. Without holes to change it’s pitch, we can also assume this horn was not meant to be an musical instrument. Could the time, location, and the rifle etched on the side of the bugle indicate it was used as a hunting signal? Some of the clues seem to say so! However, this horn could have been made by a pair of idle hands as a toy, or other simple amusement.

Who do you think made the horn trumpet and why?

 

 

Sources:

 

  1. “On the Employment and Working of Animal Horn”, Scientific American, Jan 26, (1850), 142.
  2. Eugene Walter Nash, “The Euphonium: Its History, Literature and Use in American Schools” (Masters, University of Southern California, 1962), 16.
  3. Nash, “The Euphonium”, 21.
  4. Katheryn Eileen Bridwell-Briner, “The Horn in America from Colonial Society to 1842” (Phd diss., University of North Carolina, 2014), 83.

((Christina Naruszewicz))

Object: Feather Headdress

E/48/8/15
United States of America
1930′-1940s
Materials: Feathers, Leather, Dye, Glass Beads

This feather headdress was worn by one time University of Oklahoma mascot Little Red, who was mascot up until the early 1970s. He was a Native American and would wear tradition tribal dress and an iconic headdress known as a war bonnet. Little Red would perform on the sidelines at football and basketball games, and he would preform war dances when the team would score a touch down.

Little Red became controversial in the minds of many in the 1960s. The ethics of using a Native American as a sports team mascot became a subject of much debate at the University and in the greater Native American community. On the surface, the discussion appeared like it was between Indians and non-Indians, but the truth of the matter was it was far more complicated than that. This debate was centered in the Native community eventually bringing many Native families into odds with each other. Families and friends couldn’t agree on whether or not Little Red was an acceptable depiction of their culture. In the end, Little Red became the first Native American mascot to be removed from a college setting.

In the late 1960s, many groups began to petition for the removal of Little Red. The National Indian Youth Council, claimed that, “Little Red serves as a symbol of the physical oppression and cultural degradation that American Indians had faced in the past.” For all of those fighting against Little Red, there seemed to be just as devoted a crowd fighting for him.

Randy Palmer, in particular, was noted as being particularly invested in saving Little Red. The Daily Oklahoma reported that Palmer went so far as to run on field at the OU – Wisconsin game in September of the 1970 season, and preformed in the capacity of Little Red to an ecstatic crowd even though the mascot had already been banned. The controversy over Little Red is still relevant today. With discussions and disputes over mascots and team names in college and professional athletics taking center stage, it is important to remember all of the cases that have come before. It is important to remember Little Red. If you would like to learn more about some of the debate surrounding the topic of Indian mascots, watch the video below from a panel discussion at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian:

Work Cited

DeSpain, Matthew S.
2013  Little Red Died for Your Sins: Playing Indian at the University of Oklahoma and the Rise and Fall of Little Red. Native Matters The Journal of Native American Studies. http://66.147.244.221/~nativema/2013/04/11/50/

[Abbey Take]


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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