Before the introduction of fabric clothing, imported by Europeans, the Indians wore tanned robes of deer, caribou and bison. The oldest dates from 1550. The musée du quai Branly has an exceptional collection of robes from the 18th century. According to the tradition of the Plains Indians (including the well-known Sioux, Cheyenne, Crows, Comanches and Pawnees), the women drew abstract geometric motifs while the men produced figurative pictograms. However, most of the robes contain both motifs; the meanings are often mysterious.
Two men, their bodies decorated with paintings, carried away by their dance, shake rattles and brandish calumets with feather pendants. This is the calumet dance practised by the Illinois Indians, which includes a mime illustrating a confrontation between the calumet and an armed warrior. The calumet is a sacred object, a bringer of peace and cohesion.
Many warriors are on horseback. The horse first appeared in 1519 when the Spanish invaded Mexico, before riding northwards to colonise New Mexico. After the arrival of the horse, war became part of daily life on the plains. The tribes clashed on the hunting grounds; warriors launched raids to acquire horses and fought each other to win prestige and honour.
The sun and the moon are at the centre of this painted hide. Along with the earth, they are the primordial powers which also contribute to the symbolic power of the round form. The sun was especially celebrated during the sun dances, held once a year at the summer solstice for a period of eight days.
Directrice du développement culturel — Hélène Fulgence
Conception de l'exposition en ligne — Cécile Renault, adjointe au directeur du développement culturel
Cette présentation a été réalisée à l'occasion de la présentation au musée du quai Branly de l'exposition Indiens des Plaines, du 8 avril au 20 juillet 2014 — Commissaire : Gaylord Torrence