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  • Vest

    An optional component in straight dance clothes is the wool broadcloth vest. Ponca, Omaha, Pawnee, and Osage straight dancers can often be seen wearing a vest with or without a ribbonshirt.

    The most common style of Ponca and Osage vests will have a distinctive strip of lazy stitched beadwork about two inches wide in geometric designs, sewn onto the vest along the bottom edge. In addition, there are usually two strips of beadwork of the same width and design, running from each shoulder at an angle to the bottom edge in front of the vest and matching strips from each shoulder to the bottom edge in back. Sometimes a third strip is seen in the back of the vest going vertically down the center. Occasionally, metal fringe is added to the bottom edge of the vest just below the beaded strip and brass sequins are added to the outline edges of the vest.

    Osage at Pawhuska, OK - 1880?

    Pawnee - no date

    Raises The Dust - Ponca - 1898

    Dust Maker (aka Pete Mitchell) - Ponca - 1898

    George Michelle - Osage - 1905

    George Michelle - Osage - 1910

    In recent years I've seen Otoe, Sauk & Fox, Iowa and Kiowa straight dancers wearing the wool broadcloth vest with traditional “semi-floral” or “stylized floral” appliqué beadwork designs similar to the designs seen on the semi-floral beaded aprons.

    Henry Red Eagle and son - Osage - 1893

    Chas Baddle - Omaha/Otoe - 1898

    It Is Him - Otoe - 1907

    Generous and wife – Osage – 1911

    Generous – Osage – 1911

    The color of the wool broadcloth used in the vest is usually the same color as the wool broadcloth used for other components in the outfit, (i.e. leggings, aprons, dance trailer), which is another probable basis for the term “straight dance suit" used throughout Oklahoma.

    Sometimes, old photos show a conventional "dress vest" that has been decorated with brass or silver spots, though not many are seen on straight dancers today.

    Ne-kah-ka-lah – Osage – 1893

    Henry Springer - Omaha - 1898

    Henry Springer and John Grant - Omaha - 1898

    William Grey Eyes - Sauk & Fox - 1898

    White Tail - Ponca - 1906

    Standing Bear - Omaha - 1909

    Ashworth, Kenneth Albert.
    1986. The Contemporary Oklahoma Pow-wow. Ph.D. dissertation. Department of Anthropology, University of Oklahoma.

    Bailey, Garrick, and Daniel Swan.
    2004. Art of the Osage. St. Louis Art Museum, University of Washington Press, Seattle, WA.

    Barth, Georg J.
    1993. Native American Beadwork. R. Schneider Publishers, Stevens Point, WI.

    Callahan, Alice A.
    1990. The Osage Ceremonial Dance, I’n-Lon-Schka. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK.

    Ellis, Clyde
    2003. A Dancing People: Powwow Culture on the Southern Plains. University of Kansas Press, Lawrence, KS.

    Feder, Norman.
    1957-a. Costume of the Oklahoma Straight Dancer. The American Indian Hobbyist Newsletter, Vol. 4, No. 1.
    1957-b. Costume of the Oklahoma Straight Dancer. The American Indian Hobbyist Newsletter, Vol. 4, No. 2.

    Fleming, Paula Richardson.
    2003. Native American Photography at the Smithsonian: The Shindler Catalogue. Smithsonian Books, Washington, D.C.

    Fletcher, Alice C. and Francis LaFlesche.
    1911. The Omaha Tribe. Bureau of American Ethnology, 27th Annual Report 1905-06, Smithsonian Institution, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.

    Hail, Barbara N.
    1980. Hau, Kola!: The Plains Indian Collection of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology. Brown University, Bristol, RI.

    Howard, Dr. James H.
    1965. The Ponca Tribe. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 195, Smithsonian Institution, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.
    1976. Ceremonial Dress of the Delaware Man. Special Issue, The Bulletin of the Archeological Society of New Jersey, No. 33, Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ.

    Johnson, Tim. Ed.
    1998. Spirit Capture: Photographs from the National Museum of the American Indian. Smithsonian Books, Washington, D.C.

    Kavanagh, Thomas W.
    1992. Southern Plains Dance Tradition and Dynamics: Native American Dance Ceremonies and Social Traditions. National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution with Starwood, Washington D.C.

    LaFave, Edward J.
    1998. Straight Dance Clothing: How to Dress a Straight Dancer. Whispering Wind: American Indian Past & Present Magazine, Vol. 29, No. 4, Folsom, LA.

    Orchard, William C.
    1929. Bead and Beadwork of the American Indians. Contributions from the Museum of the American Indian, Vol. 11, Heye Foundation, New York, NY.

    Smith, Jerry.
    1982. Straight Dance Clothes: Getting Them On. Moccasin Tracks Magazine, April Issue, LaPalma, CA.

    Stewart, Tyronne H.
    1968. Dressing a Straight Dancer. The Singing Wire Newsletter, February Issue.
    Last edited by Historian; 03-21-2009, 08:23 AM.

    "Be good, be kind, help each other."
    "Respect the ground, respect the drum, respect each other."

    --Abe Conklin, Ponca/Osage (1926-1995)

  • #2
    keep up the great work Historian i love reading your posts and the pictures are outstanding!!!


    • #3
      So, historian what would you like to charge us for all this wonderful stuff? We will pass the hat


      • #4
        Originally posted by legalstraight View Post
        So, historian what would you like to charge us for all this wonderful stuff? We will pass the hat
        I know ennit

        I picture a guy that looks like the ndn version of Burgess Meredith that spends hours sorting through old books
        and photos coming up with totally awesome stuff!!!
        ᎠᏂᎩᏚᏩᎩ - Anigiduwagi
        Till I Die!


        • #5
          I'm glad you enjoy the posts and pics.

          There's no charge. I enjoy helping folks if I can. Even when I do educational seminars or lectures on the side, I usually only suggest a modest honorarium to cover travel expenses.

          You made me smile with the reference to Burgess Meredith. I should tell you though, while I do have a little bit of gray hair, I'm only 52. LOL

          Doing historical research is a passion of mine. However, it's important to remember that while I do gain a lot of information from written texts and old photos, there are two other very valuable sources I rarely speak about.

          First, is museum exhibits and inventory. I have been to many museums over the last 30+ years. Some are big name museums, and others may just be a small display in the corner of a library.

          Exhibits are what a museum will put in display cases for the general public to see. However, this only represents about 20% to 40% of what the museum has. Referred to generally as "cultural material," there is much to learn from seeing up close and in color, some of the components used in dance clothes you might have seen only in black & white photos.

          Next, museum inventory is the 60% to 80% of cultural material that museums have stored away, that is not on display. Often when I go to a museum, I will try and contact the curator, and tell him/her what I am interested in looking at. Very often they will allow individuals "escorted access" to view their inventory, or segments of it, for research purposes.

          This type of access can be very educational. I remember one time when I went to the Peabody Museum at Harvard to look at examples of pipe bags and their construction. While they had about 20 pipe bags on display from various tribes, I was able to view close to 100 pipe bags that had been stored in drawers. This wide variety, helped open my eyes to the diversity of artwork, even within the same tribal tradition.

          In, addition, when you have a chance to chat with the museum curator about what interests you, often you will tap into their passion, and they are often willing to help you with recommendations for books, photos or other source material you may not have know existed. For example, there are a number of museums that have inventories of recorded songs. Some where recorded back in the early 1900s on the old copper cylinders. Others were recorded on reel to reel in the 1950s and 1960s.

          Lastly, the other very valuable resource of information is tribal elders. I have spent thousands of hours visiting with elders from dozens of tribes and nations in a number of different states. Many of them have become close friends, and a few have become like family members. Unfortunately, many have already passed on, but their knowledge lives on through the people they have talked with. I rarely reveal the names of these elders, in order to maintain their privacy, but I have learned so very much about what things were like back in the day, just by making friends and asking appropriate questions at the appropriate time.

          "Be good, be kind, help each other."
          "Respect the ground, respect the drum, respect each other."

          --Abe Conklin, Ponca/Osage (1926-1995)


          • #6
            Historian, thank you for your wonderful posts. my minor in college was history so I love the things that you put here for us to soak up and soak in....

            Next time I head to the museum to look at something I am going to contact the curator and see what else I might be able to look at...

            By the way right now the University of Pennsylvaina had a great exhit about the Lenape on display through September. I am goingto have to see what other wonderous things that they have.... I think that it is worth a look for anyone living in the PA area or planning a trip before Septemeber...

            Fulfilling a Prophecy
            Thankful for the blessing from the Creator in my life!!!!

            Life should not be measured by the number of things that we aquire on our journey but by the number of lives that we touch along that road.

            I am a bridge on the red path between my ancestors and the future. I am a bridge between my white heritage and my native heritage. A bridge joins two sides together and provides a way to move on..... A.K. O'Pry-Reynolds


            • #7
              Speaking of museum storage, here are a few I have pics of. Let me now say that Beadman got me 90% of the photos I have on this topic and started me on the learning when I looked into this so don't let me give you the impression that I know much about this:
              From the Oklahoma Museum Of History:
              124-2445_IMG and 124-2446_IMG front & back of one that has lots of different decorations. (I have notes that this is also in the NMAI so I don't know for sure)
              IMG_0974 I only have a shot of the front.
              Attached Files
              Last edited by Fat Albert; 03-24-2009, 03:17 AM.


              • #8
                OHS Vest 2b - This one is one of my all time favorites. I just dig the sequin work. That's talent in design!
                OHS Vest 2c - the back
                Attached Files


                • #9
                  Still more from Oklahoma Museum Of History:

                  Ah Ha!
                  Attached Files


                  • #10
                    From the same storage facility, another of my faves. This one I have seen described as Ponca/Osage specifically for whatever reason. Love the strips that go all the way over the shoulder. Reminds me of the hide shirts that had quilled strips. I also like the spots/ buttons down the center in the back. This vest and most that I have posted are not the archtype that seems to be most common. I also like this one because the loomed strips are completely unrelated (the strip on the bottom and the 2 shoulder strips). Has a great look in my opinion.
                    Attached Files


                    • #11
                      This is from the Splendid Heritage collection (Osage - Warnock Collection<tt></tt>). I can't seem to link to the pic on their site so go there and check it out. Use the drop down menu 'Category' and take it to 'vest'. You can zoom in and really get a look at it. This is a bad mamma jamma of a vest and is a great example of the most common ones. 3 different strip designs and some kind of decoration on the front open space. Fantastic designs! I wish I could have met the person that put it together.
                      Attached Files


                      • #12
                        Now, those are some examples of older vests, so here is something modern. If you browse the galleries you will find many more like these with the beaded strips replaced with ribbon work. In my experience it is a ton faster to do modern ribbon work (not hand sewn) than it is to do loomed strips if you know what you are doing so I think that is why we see so much of it today. Typically the ribbon sets only have 2 shoulder strips and a strip around the bottom all related and matching ribbons sewn hanging from the bottom like fringe. This one is a Carl Jennings creation and it's baaaaad!

                        As a final note, if you look hard you will find that a lot of the vests in the old pics are commercially made and then decorated like Historian mentioned. However there are some of those that have intricate applique bead work on them. For a nice example check out Historian's pic of "It Is Him - Otoe - 1907". You see the tell-tale collar. Also "Generous – Osage – 1911" may be since he has buttons on his and more importantly he looks to maybe have pockets where the horizontal beadwork is. Buttons are a good indicator but are not exclusive to commercial made vests. Don't ever forget that these folks used what was at hand if they thought it would work. As Beadman pointed out to me, the old style vests were supposed to fit tight (a fashion characteristic of comercial vests from what I can tell) and were often fastened closed where the modern ones are much larger. I bet the new ones are designed to accomodate the infamous straight dancer fry bread belly.
                        Attached Files


                        • #13
                          How long the ribbonwork vs. beadwork takes depends on how caffinated your beader is.
                          After a pot or two of coffee I can whip out a strip that is long enough for a vest pretty easily in a weekend. Ribbonwork that takes maybe all week (after work and on the weekend). But ribbonwork you can't be all that caffinated- once the had starts shaking you are in dangerous territory with cutting.

                          My vest is a modern commercial vest (bought it for my wedding).


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Fat Albert View Post
                            Still more from Oklahoma Museum Of History:

                            Ah Ha!
                            Some great pics! Thanks for posting them.

                            The AH HA vest seems to have elements of beadwork that indicate Kiowa design, if I'm not mistaken.

                            "Be good, be kind, help each other."
                            "Respect the ground, respect the drum, respect each other."

                            --Abe Conklin, Ponca/Osage (1926-1995)


                            • #15

                              "Be good, be kind, help each other."
                              "Respect the ground, respect the drum, respect each other."

                              --Abe Conklin, Ponca/Osage (1926-1995)


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