Smoked skin shirt belonging to Mékaisto, or Red Crow
Blood, AD 1880s
From the Canadian Plains, North America
Head chief of the Kainai, or Blood
Red Crow (about 1830-1900) was head chief of the Kainai, or Blood, tribe of the Blackfoot Confederacy from 1870. He was involved in thirty-three raids against neighbouring peoples, including the Crows, and Plains Crees. Later, in 1874, he welcomed the arrival of the North-West Mounted Police to restore order. Early on he recognized the awful reality of the disappearance of buffalo in 1879-80, and became a farmer growing grain and vegetables. In 1894 he accepted an offer from the government to exchange prized horses for fifteen cattle, part of a programme that led to the establishment of ranching among the Blood in southern Alberta.
Red Crow remained loyal to Canada during the North-West Rebellion in 1885. The Prime Minister, John A. MacDonald, rewarded him and other loyal chiefs with a tour of eastern Canada. This shirt was probably collected during this tour. It is decorated with great beaded rosettes on the chest and back, possibly representing Thunderbirds, and with beaded panels on the arms, and hair fringes.
He also visited the Mohawk Institute near Brantford, Ontario, and returned to the Blood Reserve a strong proponent of education for Indians. Although baptised a Roman Catholic, he retained his Native religion and spent the last years of his life fighting the attempted suppression of the Sun Dance.
The Kainai, or Bloods, gave the historic name of Red Crow to the Duke of Windsor in 1919 and to the present Prince of Wales in 1977.
The secondary education college is named after Red Crow, and a bronze statue of him wearing this shirt stands in the capital of the Kainai Reserve, Stand Off.
J.C.H. King, First peoples, first contacts: (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)