Native American ArtSince the early days of Sacred Heart Abbey, the Benedictine monks at St. Gregory’s have had a good relationship with the surrounding tribes. Because of this, the MGMoA has a great collection of items entrusted to us to preserve and to use to educate others about the tribes and their cultures. Our Native American gallery features notable artifacts from tribes across the country, but focuses on those created by tribes native to or relocated to Oklahoma, including modern Osage dance regalia, a Kiowa cradle board, and a Kiowa dress from the 1890s.
Native American Art
Most of the Osage dance regalia featured was made for Fr. Vincent Traynor, a monk at St. Gregory’s Abbey (1916-2000). Fr. Traynor was well loved by the various nearby tribes. He was adopted into the Pottawatomi tribe in 1953 and was given Indian names from the Caddo and Delaware people at an honor dance in Anadarko.
Every piece of the regalia was made by a different artist. The otter turban was likely made in the 1940s. The blanket is trimmed in the double bear-claw pattern and is attributed to Georgeanne Robinson whose work was sold in the Red Man Store in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. The beaded moccasins are attributed to Elsie Bushyhead. On the Pottawatomi beaded belt, the green triangular areas represent pinecones and the black triangular areas represent oak leaves.
The Kiowa cradleboard is a wonderful example of the intricate beadwork by the Kiowa tribe. A cradleboard is a traditional baby carrier for babies still nursing. The baby is swaddled then placed in a specially designed container usually made of leather or fabric attached to a board. The “hood” protected the baby’s head. This could be worn on the mother’s back or propped against a tree or on the ground like a baby chair. Some were even designed to hang off a horse for easy transport. The rawhide frame would often be replaced and the elaborate beadwork could be reused.
This c. 1890 Kiowa dress is typical of the hide dresses worn by Kiowa women. The dress is made of three deer hides forming the front, back and yoke. The yoke is the area around the neck and shoulders. The yoke and the bottom of the dress are of two different periods, a recycling practice common on the plains. The yoke, with laundry blueing used as dye at various locations including around the collar, and the use of French beads is older than the bottom of the dress. The beadwork at the bottom of the dress in combination with the use of red paint indicates that this part is newer than the yoke.