santee-sioux

[Abraham Lincoln] “So, on December 26, 1862, the Great Emancipator ordered the largest mass execution in American History, where the guilt of those to be executed was entirely in doubt. Regardless of how Lincoln defenders seek to play this, it was nothing more than murder to obtain the land of the Santee Sioux and to appease his political cronies in Minnesota.”

 

Shirt made by members of the Dakota tribe
Frederick Horniman’s grandson Eric purchased this beaded jacket during a visit to the United States and gave it to the museum in 1925. It was made by members of the Dakota tribe, also known as the Santee Sioux. The Dakota people’s homelands are in the northern Plains states Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska.

The shirt is made from buckskin and decorated with a fringe, bands of beadwork on the shoulders and back, and locks of human hair. Before contact with white settlers, Plains tribes made their clothing from the hides of deer or buffalo, the main food source of Plains Indians. Beadwork decoration increased with trade between the Native American tribes and Europeans. Beadwork replaced or was used alongside quillwork, a form of embroidery using the quills of porcupines. The designs and colours used on clothing all have symbolic meanings relating to warfare, the landscape or human virtues. The patterns are made of different elements representing objects. The beadwork over the shoulders contains the leaf and feather patterns. Locks of hair on shirts either represented scalps taken in battle or were offerings from relatives to honour the warrior. These shirts were worn as a badge of honour by the bravest warriors in Plains society. 

By the time Eric Horniman visited America, the traditional way of life of the Dakota was disappearing. The Sioux tribes fought a series of battles known as the Sioux Wars between 1862 until 1890, attempting to stop white settlements in their territory, and were eventually moved onto reservations. Although Plains Indians continued to make war shirts to honour their beliefs, collectors bought their work believing their culture was disappearing, as part of what is known as ‘salvage ethnography’. Plains Indians continue to make shirts today as regalia for ceremonies or to celebrate accomplishments. It is unclear how authentic this shirt may be, since objects were created specifically for the tourist market by reservation Indians.

John Trudell, Native American activist. Last week, John Trudell gave me a great interview at his home in San Francisco. He was born in Omaha and grew up there and on the Santee Sioux reservation. He served in the Navy on a destroyer off the coast of Vietnam from 1963-67. He was studying radio and television production in college when he heard that Native Americans had taken over the abandoned Alcatraz Island prison in 1969. He and his first wife Lou packed up their two kids and joined the occupation. Trudell quickly became the spokesperson for the group, and Lou gave birth to their third child on the island. In LOOK’s photo by Art Kane, Trudell is in the front on the left with his second child who was 18 months old. In my photo, John is holding his youngest son Cetan, in front of their house. Next week, I’m hoping to photograph him back on Alcatraz Island.

John Trudell (February 15, 1946 – December 8, 2015)

John Trudell is a poet, recording artist, actor and speaker whose international following reflects the universal language of his words, work and message.

Trudell (Santee Sioux) was a spokesperson for the Indians of All Tribes occupation of Alcatraz Island from 1969 to 1971 and served as Chairman of the American Indian Movement (AIM) from 1973 to 1979.

Trudell has played roles in a number of feature and made for television films, including Thunderheart, Smoke Signals and Dreamkeeper, and has authored three books of poetry.

Trudell passed away at the age of 69 in California of cancer.