V is for Vest

Helbing Collection A-Z is a continuing feature of our blog. Each week, I will highlight an item or items from our Helbing Collection of Native American Arts and Crafts.

Of this beaded vest, Cleora wrote, “This tan buckskin vest has the modern characteristics of yellow cotton lining and hook and eye fasteners. The older Indian arts are displayed in the fringing at the shoulder and side seams and in the beading. A round circle design is beaded on the center back with a solidly beaded Indian head in full feather headdress in the center of this. Both sides of the front are solidly beaded in white with colored beads used to form designs of an Indian head in full feather headdress, three flower and leaf designs, and a canoe. This vest was made by the Chippewa Indians (Ojibwa).”

The back of the vest

When anthropology professor Julie Pelletier visited from the University of Minnesota Morris, she commented on the fact that although it was made by the Ojibwe and contains typical woodland floral motifs, it was clearly made to sell to white people because it contains several images of men wearing a full headdress. Headdresses of this style were worn by plains indians – never by woodland indians, but the image of the headdress is so ingrained in white culture as “real indian” that it is often included in items made for sale to white tourists.

Beading design detail

Beading - detail

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