- Museum number
Painted, smoked skin shirt, with skin tassles along the hems, decorated with large beaded rosettes to chest and back bearing designs possibly representing Thunderbirds. Further beadwork arranged in geometric forms, can be observed as thick bands running across each shoulder; a tassled fringe formed from skin and bound with porcupine quill has been applied along one edge on each of these bands. A strip of red woolen cloth forms a collar.
- Production date
Length: 100 centimetres
Width: 60 centimetres (chest)
Width: 164 centimetres (span)
- Curator's comments
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.
This shirt has appeared in a detailed study by Colin Taylor ('Saam, the symbolic content of early northern plains ceremonial regalia' Verlag fur Amerikanistik, 1999) who interpreted the circular beaded flap as being a stylised image of a thunderbird. (Max Carocci, 27/11/2008)
- On display (G26/dc12)
- Exhibition history
1999 25 Jun-2002 Apr, BM Room 26; Gallery of North America, Case: "The Canadian Plains"
2002 1 May-15 Sept, Lethbridge, Alberta, Sir Alexander Galt Museum & Archive, Ancestors-Akaitapiiwa
2005-2007 Apr-Jan, Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada, Art of this Land
2010 6 Jan-5 Apr, British Museum, Room 91, Warriors of the Plains: 200 years of Native North American honour and ritual
2011 2 Mar-Present, BM Room 26; Gallery of North America, Case: "The Canadian Plains"
- Acquisition notes
- Although this shirt's acquisition details are unknown, it is known to have been in the possession of Kainai chief Red Crow in 1886 as there is a photograph of him wearing it held in the Glenbow Archives (see King & Wood 2002, p.19). The rest of the Red Crow material in the British Museum came from the Freeman Collection of 1903, although there is no documentation linking this shirt directly to that collection.
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number