Gods of Rock

By: Tom Stanley

Forget about Freddy Mercury. Forget about Chuck Berry. In the good old days, long before the days of the idol on the stage, humanity looked to the natural world for help in satisfying their cravings for idolatry. Thousands of years ago, the people of ancient Egypt—who lived in one of the world’s most advanced early […]

Children Amongst the Caribou: Clothes for a Young Innu

By: Margaret Bruchac

The Penn Museum holds around 400 objects attributed to the “Naskapi” people and acquired by Frank Speck in 1930-1931.[1] The diverse collection includes games, charms, toys, hunting tools, snowshoes, paint brushes, and clothing made of caribou hide, among other things. Historically, the First Nations Innu (Naskapi) people of northern Labrador have long regarded migratory caribou […]

Tlingit Raven Rattle: Transformative Representations

By: Margaret Bruchac

Shark, Raven, Bird, Human. What does it mean to find these life forms intermingled within a singular piece, in the shape of a rattle? In Tlingit society, the interactions among these beings and the mythologies associated with them represent cultural interpretations of individual and clan relationships. Specific aspects of these relations and beliefs led to […]

Choctaw Beaded Sashes: Crossing Histories

By: Margaret Bruchac

In 1901, during the Wanamaker Pan-American Expedition, Penn Museum Curator Stewart Culin purchased a selection of Choctaw objects from Louisiana.[1] The collection included two elaborately beaded red wool sashes—objects #38472 and object #38473—which were identified, in the Choctaw language, as ska-bo-chai.[2] The coiled designs evoke ancient motifs seen in Eastern Woodland Mississippian and Early Historic […]

The Mysterious Beaded Collar

By: Margaret Bruchac

The provenance story of this “American Indian beaded collar” (object # 2000-16-1) begins with a mystery: it was made by an unknown artisan for an unknown purpose at an unknown time, likely in the 19th century. In 1972, Robert W. Preucel received it as a gift from his high school friend, Tucker Hentz. Hentz noted, […]

Blackfeet Moccasins: A Gift to Charles Stephens

By: Margaret Bruchac

This object study focuses on two pairs of moccasins, similar in structure and style, collected in 1891 from Blackfeet (also called Blackfoot) artisans.[1] The moccasins have a closed-toe design, cloth ankle flaps, leather ties, and beaded floral motifs. They were constructed using a one-piece pattern stitched together with a vertical seam at the heel before […]

Investigating a Pipe Tomahawk

By: Margaret Bruchac

  How does a tomahawk, as an object typically associated with violence, come to be connected to a smoking pipe used in rituals and ceremonies associated with peace? Who devised the idea of welding these different objects together to bring pipe tomahawks into being, and what are the cultural significances surrounding their presence? File these […]

The Salmon Basket & Cannery Label

By: Margaret Bruchac

This salmon basket from the land of the Tlingit and Yakutat people is a useful piece of art, woven from spruce root, grass, and maidenhair fern in a twined fashion, and originally made to carry lightweight materials. It shows minimal evidence of wear. In size and shape and weaving patterns, it closely resembles other baskets […]

The Kaskasian Beaver Bowl

By: Margaret Bruchac

This bowl, in the form of a wooden beaver with a bowl-shaped carving sculpted into its back, is identified as having been crafted by the Kaskaskian people in the Illinois Territory.[1] The bowl was one of two non-identical beaver bowls collected in 1795 by George Turner, who was then serving as a judge in the […]

A Vision of Color: Contextualizing a Peyote Rattle in Time and Space

By: Margaret Bruchac

Object Analysis by Margaret Bruchac and Sheridan Small During the era of American westward expansion, many Native American peoples were forced from their ancestral lands and confined to reservations. The Winnebago people, for example, went through several territorial dislocations as a result of three major cession treaties with the fledgling United States. They were removed […]