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Decorative Art of the Plains Tribes

The Plains Indians have a well developed decorative art in which simple geometric designs are the elements of composition. This art is primarily the work of women. Clothing and other useful articles, made of skins, were rendered attractive by designs in beads and quills. Rawhide bags and parfleche were treated with a peculiar type of painting in many colors. Realistic art was practiced chiefly by men in the recording of war deeds and reached a high degree of excellence among the Dakota and Mandan. The technical .aspect of bead and quill work of the Plains is quite peculiar. Formerly, there was little or none of the woven work so common in the Eastern Woodlands and the forests of Canada, the method here being to lay the quills on the surface of skins in large geometric areas. The beads now in use were introduced by traders and have almost displaced the original art of porcupine quill embroidery. The most numerous decorated objects in collections are moccasins which therefore offer an extensive design series. Though often examples of each design may be found upon the moccasins in a single tribe, the tendencies are always toward a few tribal types. Thus, the Arapaho predominate in longitudinal stripes (Fig. 45, a-d), the Dakota in definite figures (f, g, m, n, o), the Blackfoot in U-shaped figures (k), etc. Additional designs will be found upon leggings, bags, and pouches. All these designs may be resolved into simple geometrical elements or patterns (Fig. 46). Fig. 46. Design Elements, Bead and Quill Embroidery. (Kroeber) Here also, tribal preferences are to be found. The rawhide paintings are...

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