The January issue of Smithsonian magazine features this story on what it calls a “breathtaking” collection of 88 quilts stitched by members of Northern Plains tribes.
The National Museum of the American Indian is home to one of the largest such collections, and the article focuses on those acquired from a collector named Florence Pulford.
Pulford, a San Francisco Bay area homemaker, first got interested in quilts of the Plains tribes in the 1960s. According to NMAI curator Ann McMullen, these quilts—many bearing a central octagonal star—functioned as both ritual and practical replacements for Plains Indians buffalo robes. Bison hides had grown scarce as herds were hunted nearly to extinction in a campaign to subdue the Plains tribes during the late 1800s. Missionary wives taught quilting techniques to Indian women, who soon made the medium their own. Many of the patterns and motifs, McMullen says, “have a look very similar to [designs painted on] buffalo robes.”
Pulford would then sell the quilts, and return profits to the women.
More than a quarter of the quilts in the collection are by Almira Buffalo Bone Jackson, a member of the Red Bottom band of Assiniboine on the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana. Jackson died in 2004 at age 87.
Tags: Almira Buffalo Bone Jackson, Assiniboine, buffalo post, Florence Pulford, Fort Belknap Reservation, Fort Peck Reservation, Gros Ventre, National Museum of the American Indian, Native American news, Smithsonian