Plains Indian Museum Collections
The Plains Indian Museum houses one of the country’s largest and finest collections of Plains Indian art and artifacts. Originating with the Northern Plains clothing and accouterments of primarily Lakota and Cheyenne performers assembled during Buffalo Bill’s Wild West shows, the collection has been carefully developed through the acquisition of major assemblages of Plains material culture including the collections of Milford G. Chandler and Richard A. Pohrt, Robert L. Anderson, J.R. Simplot, Royal B. Hassrick, and Adolf Spohr, as well as important individual objects.
The museum’s collections contain superb examples of tribal artistry representing many Plains peoples—including the Lakota, Crow, Blackfeet, Cheyenne, Gros Ventre, Assiniboine, Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, Shoshone, and Arapaho—among others. Many collection objects also carry considerable historical significance: items such as those traded by Sitting Bull to the post trader at Fort Randall, South Dakota, during his imprisonment there from 1881 to 1883, a shirt belonging to Red Cloud, and Southern Arapaho Ghost Dance clothing. The collections, consisting of more than 6,000 objects, include materials from the Northern, Central, and Southern Plains; Northwest Coast; Southwest; Eastern Woodlands; and the Plateau regions.
More recently, the Museum has focused on acquiring the very best works of contemporary Indian artists such as Kiowa artist Vanessa Jennings (Paukeigope), Marcus Dewey (Northern Arapaho), Arthur Amiotte (Lakota), and Emil Her Many Horses (Lakota) to reflect the innovations and continuing traditional artistry of Plains Indian people.
Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection
In September 2007, the Buffalo Bill Center of the West signed a gift/purchase agreement to acquire the Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection, recognized as the most historic and important privately-held collection of Plains Indian artifacts, art work, and related materials in the world. The collection had been on loan to the Center while negotiations for its acquisition progressed over the previous fifteen months.
The collection includes clothing, eagle feather bonnets, bear claw necklaces, buffalo hide tipis and tipi furnishings, shields, cradles, peace medals, moccasins, and much more. It dates from the late 1700s to pre-1890s, a period identified by Paul Dyck as the “Buffalo Culture” era. A special gallery space dedicated to the collection opened in 2013, and Buffalo Bill Center of the West staff members are currently planning for a traveling exhibition as well.
The Paul Dyck Collection contains an array of objects, some that you may not think of off-hand. For example, below is a virtual gallery of five dolls from the collection:
- T-shaped, muslin body doll with leather clad legs and head. Traditional reservation style Lakota 3-skin dress, with fully beaded yoke - upper and lower strips (neck & shoulders, lower edging) in pink, dark blue and white beads with 3 mountain type designs on lower front and back. The remaining majority of yoke is filled with "salt and pepper" beading, as well as the two stripes on lower dress and the leggings on the moccasins. Eyes, nose and mouth are "salt & pepper" beads. Sleeves and side hems have added fringe, bottom hem is self fringed. Beaded tanned hide belt, 1" w, with salt and pepper beads and blue/gold bead tassels. Human hair attached, and in braids.
- Dress isn't a natural tanned color, appears to be dyed.
- Almost Apache style dress with top and skirt, but with added "deer legs" on lower portion. Body is denim with stiff or hardened leather legs and arms. Contemporary colored seed beads trimmed on neckline in grass green, sky blue, dark blue, orange, and white in striped pattern. Black and yellow beads on top of each fringe on bodice. Attached fringe on sleeves. Yellow, black and red beads on each "v" on lower hem of bodice. Colors repeat ¾ way down on dress with metal cones (3 total - 1 attached). Attached "legs" on lower have same bead color pattern. 3 Yellow and 3 black repeat beads along self-fringed bottom hem. Faux tall moccs have sky blue, dark blue and white striped beads up back of moccs. Orange, sky blue grass green and white repeat stripe around ankle. Triangle of same on vamp. Small head with black threads knotted for eyes and maybe ears. No hair. Circle stitch for mouth.
- Female doll with yellow painted dress, self-fringed and red painted at bottom, and sleeves, added fringe at shoulders. Painted stripes in red and black on shoulders, and bottom 1/3 of dress. Arms and legs are plain muslin. Hugh top style moccasin with fringed tops, and tied. Painted yellow, with red line going up center. Lower shoe portion is painted red. Little head - 2" across - is ochred on front only with blue/white seed beads for eyes, mouth, as well as dangler earrings and choker. No hair. Plain tanned hide on head verso.
- Doll with cloth and tanned hide body, heavy in weight. Dress styled with 3 rows of cowrie shells on yoke. Red and black seed bead belt, and self-fringed bottom hem. "Leggings" in black, white, red, green vertical seed beads. Moccasins edged in black and white triangles on perimeter. Face has traces of yellow ochre with black and white seed beads for eyes and mouth. String of mostly red and black seed beads as necklace, wrapped 4xs on neck. Five partial strands of horsehair still attached to back of head with thread. Sleeves at wrist are also self-fringed.
The Center received two grants that made possible the on-site exhibition gallery, opened June 15, 2013, and a larger exhibition that will appear at the Center in the next couple years, and subsequently travel to several other venues. Click here to read the full news release.
The Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection was acquired through the generosity of the Dyck family and additional gifts of the Nielson Family and the Estate of Margaret S. Coe. The Wyoming Humanities Council, the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, and Deborah and Rusty Rokita supported the creation of the Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Gallery.