July 21, 2007

More on dresses exhibit

American Indian Dresses Blend Tradition and Innovation

Exhibit traces history of dressmaking by indigenous peoples over 200 yearsThe prominent roles of women in American Indian societies are mirrored in the evolving designs of the ceremonial dresses and accessories they have created over the past 200 years, says Emil Her Many Horses, an expert on Northern and Southern Plains cultures at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI).

Her Many Horses, a member of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) nation of South Dakota, is co-curator of the NMAI exhibit “Identity by Design: Tradition, Change, and Celebration in Native Women’s Dresses.” The exhibit traces the history of native dressmaking from the 19th century to the present, with examples of richly ornamented deerhide and cloth dresses representing a variety of North American tribal and regional styles.

The dresses, shown with moccasins, leggings and other handmade items, illuminate the vibrant artistic traditions of American Indian communities. “In our cultures, artistic ability is considered a spiritual gift,” Her Many Horses told USINFO. “Women who excelled at dressmaking always were held in high regard” for contributing to their families’ well-being, and their creations enhanced the status of their families within the tribal framework.

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