Art for Sale (continued)

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American Indian collection of Mrs. Jessie C. Yeats, Becker County, Minnesota.

The late 19th century was also the age of the creation of the great American museum anthropological collections. An astonishing osmosis of traditional Native objects occurred from the western frontier to east coast museums as souvenirs of a dying race. The diminution of traditional Native objects as tourist goods for trade to Victorian women was common as White tourists increasingly flocked to Native places, believing Native people to be on the brink of extinction.

Present in this particular photograph are a wealth of Anishinaabe made objects including bandolier bags, dance aprons, wall pockets, garters, belts, knife cases and a ceremonial drum, all displayed in a Victorian parlor. Several of these objects are identifiable and currently in the collection of the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul.

One example is the extraordinary bandolier bag that can be seen in the far left of the first photo. The beadwork on Anishinaabe bandolier bags can be either stitched or loomed, or a combination of the two. The beadwork featured on the strap and body of this bag was created on a loom and then applied to the woolen fabric of the bag. The geometric designs likely pre-date the florals that Ojibwe beadworkers are famed for, and may in fact be an echo of the symbols of state produced during the hierarchical Mississippian Chiefdoms to the southeast.

Older art traditions struggled but coexisted with newer ones during the Reservation Period. This fully-quilled leather vest was made by a Dakota woman in Minnesota at approximately the same time the mixed lace vest was created. Porcupine quilling is an extremely labor-intensive art that pre-existed the importation of European-made glass beads in the early 19th century.

Men also produced artwork intended to appeal to non-Natives. Men were traditionally responsible for sculptural art, an occupation that continued well into the 20th century. Here, the form of a gunstock club (a type of war club made from the hardwood stock of a Western rifle) has been carved in miniature out of pipestone, decoratively engraved, and transformed into a paperweight – something the Dakota themselves had no use for, but which was observed being used among Americans.