Few images of Native Americans are as iconic as that of a historic Plains Indian man wearing a fringed shirt, riding across the prairie on his trusty horse. This stereotypical image, etched into the minds of people across this country and Europe, and has been the object of many romanticized novels and television. Fortunately, that image is only one insignificant interpretation of the role of Plains Indian shirts; in reality, they act as a symbol of status, honor, and tradition for Plains Indian culture.
The exhibition, “Beauty, Honor, and Tradition: The Legacy of Plains Indian Shirts”, explores the importance of these garments to traditional Plains Indian culture from a variety of perspectives. Through interviews with tribal elders and archival research, this exhibition demonstrates how these objects fit into the Plains Indian world. In a rare curatorial collaboration between the National Museum of the American Indian-Smithsonian Institution and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, “Beauty, Honor, and Tradition” features forty-three Plains Indian shirts created by twenty-two tribes, all drawn from the one million object collection of the National Museum of the American Indian.