Early Small Plains Dance Shield

Item: 758

Origin: Likely Northern Plains
Date: Before 1870

Media: Hide and Natural pigment
Dimensions: 12″ x 11.25″

Description: This is likely a dance shield cover, with the base now gone and replaced with a piece of modern cardboard. It is made of hide with central painted thunderbird figure wearing a medal, painted with vegetal paint, with lunar imagery above and both sides of the bird’s head.  The pigment is a dark muted black/green. The imagery here is simple and bold.  The bird with medal signifies, for me, that the maker of this piece placed himself into the story.  It’s refreshing to see the thunderbird in such primal form.  Other than the medal, the bird is as primitive as can be. The gestural quality is powerful in a minimalist way, a character more often found prior to the reservation period.  The original size can be confirmed by looking at the back, where the early folds show significant wear as well as additional epidermis where the design was not meant to be.  In addition, the front edge to the graphic display has created the same amount of space all around it, proving again that this is not a cut down larger shield.

Condition:  There are several holes around the front of the shield, but they are all well contained.  I feel most certain that the hole in the chest of the bird, as well as the two holes 2/3 the way down the wing, must have been created by punctures for feathers.  The back side shows multiple tears to the hide edging, all contained in the back portion.

Provenance:  A private New York collection to Will E. Channing

Price: $5400