Seven students from St. Labre Indian School in Ashland, Montana―Donovan Wind, Victor Yarlott, Summer Tapelo, Bernadine Fisher, Trinity Rides The Bear, Preston Brady, and Justin Lyons―studied beadwork and learned essential museum practices by going through all the steps needed to exhibit the items in this case. Their experience is part of a collaborative program between St. Labre and the Plains Indian Museum.
One of the students’ exercises was to answer questions about an artifact of their choice, including descriptions of the cultural use of the item, its approximate date, tribal identification, materials, dimensions, and condition. They were also asked to express what they wanted to tell the public about the artifact, and why it is important to share this information with visitors. They described the objects of their choice in the following comments:
“This knife case was used by a Crow man. Beaded in Crow fashion and on elk rawhide, dyed in red pigment with white, pink, green, light blue, and red glass beads.”
A man’s vest was described as “An Ojibwe vest with an abstract floral design and a blue velvet background caught our attention on the online database because of the floral beadwork.” The students pondered a small beaded bag which is identified in the database as Salish, but thought to be possibly Cheyenne or Sioux after careful examination of the designs, “Fairly beaded designs. This bag is used by both the male and female. Partially beaded on tanned hide. This bag was used for personal reasons.” The students selected moccasins from hundreds of examples in the collection: “This is a pair of Cheyenne moccasins with a white background and with a little bit of red, blue, dark blue, and yellow. Materials are elk raw hide, sinew, and glass beads. This pair was used for a male. The designs are birds and deer.”
When the students weren’t studying the collections items from the Plains Indian Museum, they worked with a variety of departments within the Center including Conservation, Museum Services and Registration, Information Technology, the Draper Museum of Natural History, and Education. Each stop provided a new perspective on museum work, interpretation, and information on the Center’s goals of education and experiential learning.
The students completed an impressive amount of work in two days. The end result can be seen in a special exhibition case entitled “Young Minds at Work” in the entrance of the Plains Indian Museum featuring artifacts chosen, researched, and exhibited by the St. Labre students.