The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Beauty, Honor, and Tradition: The Legacy of Plains Indian Shirts, February 22 - May 16, 2004

Shirts of Distinction

Although every Indian tribe is unique, one of the more distinctive is the Apsaalooke (Crow). After separating from the Minitari (Hidatsa) people in North Dakota more than 250 years ago, the Apsaalooke moved west and south on their legendary migration to the Yellowstone River Valley. Today, they reside on their reservation in south central Montana.
Shirts made by the Apsaalooke are thought to be some of the finest and most dazzling. Despite the turmoil of 19th-century Plains life, Apsaalooke traditions thrived. High-quality materials, excellent craftsmanship, and refined aesthetics make Apsaalooke works extremely accomplished. Although Apsaalooke cradleboards, quivers, gun cases, horse trappings, and moccasins are all characterized by their great beauty, Apsaalooke shirts remain exceptional. Their makers used color—especially dense fields of pink or blue surrounded by white borders—in a way that was unique to them. Apsaalooke artistic traditions continue to be alive and well, as seen in the range and quality of objects found at the annual Crow Fair in Montana.

Pauline Small "We’re still struggling today as Native Americans....And we’re trying to maintain sovereignty....And we’re still trying to take our place in that structured society in a good way by maintaining the uniqueness that we have as people. That’s what God has given to us."
-Pauline Small (Apsaalooke)

Apsaalooke (Crow)
Shirt (back), about 1880
Apsaalooke (Crow)
Child’s Vest (front), about 1875