Infant's vest

Sioux, Native American

Not on view

This set of late-nineteenth through early twentieth-century Lakota children’s clothing items appears to have been made by an individual artist and her family, or possibly the same group of women from one community. Highly distinct, the set embodies rich material information regarding intergenerational knowledge, cultural identity, and connections to community and place. All three garments are fully-beaded using the lane-stitch technique and feature geometric landscapes, lodges, sky symbols, and notably, American flags. The set includes one boy’s vest, one child’s bonnet, and one pair of children’s moccasins.

The fully-beaded child’s vest is lovingly adorned with visual references to home or another meaningful place. On the front, storm clouds, lightening, and hills surround tipis with entrances defined in geometric form. On the back, American flags wave above a lodge or shelter, the source of life and family. A landscape with butterflies or stylized dragonflies signifies blessings. The continuous deep red line across the shoulders, chest, and back likely indicates a favorite or eldest child.

The hand-sewn child’s bonnet, includes interpretive symbols of sky, stars, and clouds, which are created with carefully counted lanes of antique glass beads in white, red, green, blue, and yellow. The inclusion of a double-American flag waving atop a hill, likely represents home or a significant place related to family and community.

The pair of fully-beaded moccasins were likely created as a gift for a young child by a mother, favorite aunt, or elder in honor of a special occasion. A bold palette of green, white, red, and blue organizes a series of structured shapes. Intervals of geometric earth and star symbols visually punctuate double-tiered rows of white on the sides. Repeat American flags on the vamps and soles echo the color and artistic theme of stacked rectangles, balanced triangles, and repetitive lines.

American flag symbols designate these items as historically and aesthetically distinct. Exact meanings of American flags on Native American items are particular to individual artists, families, and sovereign Native communities. Flag images can denote military service, a special event, or a ceremony. More generally, images of American flags also signify particularly turbulent historical and political periods between Native Americans and Euro-Americans leading up to and following non-Indian population encroachments, forced displacement, establishment of reservations, and the boarding school era.

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