Originally featured in Points West in Winter 2009
Painted Buffalo Hide
Plains Native peoples commemorated important events with painted images on tanned buffalo hides. The paintings depicted stories of family history, battles, and visions. One particular record, a “winter count,” included images to commemorate a special event each year.
The painted hides served as tipi coverings, clothing, and bedding. As robes, they were worn with the warm fur on the inside against the body, the painted side on the outside, and traditionally wrapped around the body with the head end to the left.
This robe depicts a successful buffalo hunt: men on horseback, wearing capotes (long, hooded cloaks) and carrying rifles, chase the buffalo. After the kill, they begin skinning and butchering the buffalo while their horses wait to carry the meat and hides back to camp.
Painted buffalo hide, Hidatsa, ca. 1875. Gift of William L. Cone. NA.702.30