Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The "Give Away Horses" Dress

We admire talented craftspeople of all kinds, no matter what kind of art they excel at.
One of the most talented has to be Juanita Growing Thunder Fogarty. According to the Native American Encyclopedia,

"Juanita Growing Thunder Fogarty was born in Castro Valley, California in 1969; however, her family comes from the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, where Juanita spent much of her childhood.
Her mother, Joyce Growing Thunder Fogarty, is also an acclaimed bead and quill artist and the only artist to have won best of show three times at the Santa Fe Indian Market. Both artists come from a long line of Plains Indians bead workers. Juanita learned skills from her mother and has been beading since the age of three."

So clearly, the woman almost oozes talent! Here is a glimpse of her work,
"Give Away Horses" dress

According to the Smithsonian,
"Made from elk skin and covered in countless blue and white beads sewed on one at a time, the dress is a highlight of the National Museum of the American Indian's "Identity by Design" exhibition. The Assiniboine/Sioux Indian is one of the West's most highly regarded beadworkers. She has created more than 500 dresses, cradle boards, dolls and other pieces, and has won top honors at the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts' annual show in Santa Fe three times—more than any other artist."
But the story doesn't end there. The artist had grown up on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana, where her grandfather Ben Gray Hawk, a tribal leader, performed a traditional "giveaway" ceremony. He would tie a war bonnet to a horse's head, sing a song paying tribute to loved ones and turn the horse loose into a crowd of men. Whoever caught the horse was able to keep it, an act of generosity meant to honor Gray Hawk's grandchildren.
Perhaps a close up of the dress will help fill in the blanks?

This dress is a part of the "Identity by Design" exhibit, which showcases 55 Native American dresses and 200 accessories from the 1830s to the present.

Joyce said she worked on it every day for ten months, usually waking at 4 a.m. and beading at her kitchen table for 16 hours. She says she felt the spirit of her ancestors beading along with her. Her daughter, Juanita Growing Thunder Fogarty, and 18-year-old granddaughter, Jessica, who live in North San Juan, California, pitched in. Juanita made the breastplate, belt, knife case, awl case and bag for fire-starting tools; and Jessica made a beaded strip for the blanket. "We were constantly working," Juanita recalls. "Every now and then, I'd throw in a load of laundry, but we just kept at it."

The dress is Sioux-style, meaning the yoke (or cape) is completely covered in the small glass "seed" beads that Europeans introduced to Native artisans around 1840. (Originally, they made beads from shell, bone and stone.) The dress depicts not only horses and their tracks but also the rectangular drums used at the giveaway ceremony. Some of the accessories, such as the awl case (traditionally used to carry sewing tools), are seldom seen with modern Indian dresses. "I really wanted to make it real," Joyce says.

What a fabulous piece with a rich story!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

The Magnificent Cougar

Did you know that mountain lions eat porcupine in addition to deer, skunk, badger, rabbits and many other animals?

Cougars are mostly solitary animals, except when mothers are raising cubs and when males and females are mating.
Solitary does not mean that cougars do not have a social structure--quite the contrary. Cougars live in low-densities on the land--a single cougar requires from a minimum of 10 to 100 square miles to breed, raise young, and hunt. Both males and females are highly territorial and maintain and defend their chosen home ranges from other cougars. They advertise their availability for breeding through a system of feline communication which includes scent marking with scrapes (in tree bark or troughs in the dirt usually made with hind paws which are then often urinated or defecated on) and vocalizations. Females can be tolerant of slight overlaps in their territories with other females. However, males will defend their home ranges against transgressions by other males.

We here at CeeCee Native Crafts believe that cougars should be protected. Join us in the battle for understanding and protection for these magnificent cats at
The Cougar Fund