From the Ann Strange Owl collection is this historic circa 1860-1880 Quilled Indian hide war shirt with beaded breast plate from the Hidatsa. The piece was collected directly from Ann Strange Owl from her personal collection and was noted as being handed down in her family from before her birth in 1935, likely dating to the late 19th Century.
Ann Strange Owl, Cheyenne name Maxaaehma’heone (Medicine Eagle Feather Woman), (1935-2021) was the noted author of “Ann Strange Owl: A Northern Cheyenne Memoir” 2017 which tells the story of her life, from her birth in a single room log cabin in the 1930’s in Birney Village, Montana on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation to her years at Charles Eagle Plume Trading Post.
The man’s warrior shirt is comprised of Indian brain-tanned hide being sinew sewn and is adorned across the back, shoulders and chest with two prominent strips of porcupine quill, quillwork in classic Northern Plains Hidatsa pattern. Unlike many other examples, this war shirt shows only quillwork, a truly rare attribute. The quillwork pattern shows a classic, noted Hidatsa design with three elongated trangles with oblong diamonds above and below. The quillwork is all natural dyed with mineral pigment colors of yellow ochre, purple lilac, pink / red and blue. There is long frilly Indian tanned hide fringes framing the outsides of the quilled strips and bordering the arms in traditional fashion. The quillwork is done on thick Elk Indian hide sections that were likely secured with buffalo hoof hide glue and later reinforced in the late 19th Century with trade thread sewing. Another rare attribute of this shirt, not seen on many other examples, is a bare chest area, most examples show a beaded or quilled bib. It was noted by Ann Strange Owl that the shirt was originally accompanied with the beaded breast plate, and that is why the shirt does not show a bib. The breast plate shows to thick harness saddle leather sections on the outside tied with Indian tanned hide with Indian hide center drooping sections wrapped in old trade clothe muslin being covered in “rope” beadwork which completely covers the center sections with 19th Century period correct glass trade seed beads. The beads are all chalk white. The breast plate shows thirteen rows and the top section shows a large shell gorget concho / concha with two smaller shell gorget concho / concha on either side all tied with Indian tanned hide.
Hidatsa quilled shirts are exceedingly rare and desirable such as the Northern Plains Hidatsa buckskin shirt which sold at Thomaston Place Auction Gallery in 2014 for $100,000; the 1880 Hidatsa Quilled War Shirt which sold by Heritage Auctions in June 2013 for $42,000. Other examples are in museum collection such as the Hidatsa Wyoming War Shirt from Penn Museum collection which is shown in the images for comparison as our example is nearly identical, showing all quillwork with a yellow background and triple oblong triangle pattern in purple. Also see the Hidatsa Deer Skin War Shirt from the 19th Century showing quillwork with the same pattern of a yellow / orange background with oblong triple triangles in purple in the collection of the Museum of Natural History from the University of Colorado.
The shirt is well kept with the hide being mostly supple and well kept, with a few stiff areas, showing no major damages or cracking. The quillwork is mostly well kept with a few small areas of loss, but present very well. The breast plate shows little to no bead loss and is also well kept. Provenance: From the Cheyenne Ann Strange Owl family collection dating to before the 1930’s into the late 2000’s and a private Native American collection in Wisconsin. The shirt is accompanied with a museum presentation mount which displays the shirt with its arms out and sits on a chest plate. Unlike the other quilled Hidatsa shirts offered at auction, this is the only example that is fully quilled, all the rest, including the $115,000 shirt, also showed beadwork adornments, making the shirt offered here closest to the museum examples and possibly the rarest offered. Measures overall