Painted figures show war victories

This resource is part of the Museum Snapshot collection - a collection of smaller resources perfect for starters, plenaries or spare moments to explore something fascinating.


This shirt was made for a First Nations warrior living on the Great Plains in North America. The shirt honours the wearer’s victories in war. The painted figures represent the many enemies that this warrior has overpowered, whilst the hoof prints symbolise the horses that he has captured and distributed among his people. The warrior himself is painted on the shirt, wearing a red and black military sash. We can even see his feint footprints walking over the chest of the 22 defeated men (and possibly one woman).

Sioux Warrior shirt


Shirts like this would have been worn on special occasions, only by men in power or those who had won fame in battle. The shirt is made of deer skin, and both sleeves are edged with human hair tassels. It was made in the early to mid-19th Century, by a member of a tribe of the Northern Sioux.

 

Detail of a Sioux Warrior shirt

Discussion ideas:

  • What responsibility do you think European societies have about the decline of Native American tribes?
  • Do we wear any clothes these days that 'record' our victories? What about the colours of Judo or Kendo belts, are they the same?
  • Think of the different clothes you might wear for special occasions. Are some clothes designed to be worn by more important people? Think of weddings, graduations, football or rugby games.
  • What do you think of when you hear or see the words 'Sioux', 'First Nations' or 'Native Americans'.  Where do your ideas of these people and their culture come from?  How might the portrayal of indigenous cultures in the media affect how we see them?

Activity ideas:

  • Design a warrior shirt to celebrate a particular victory or success (such as an Olympic achievement).

 

  • The Google map below shows the area in America that the Sioux tribe originated from. Zoom out of it to see America in raltionship with the rest of Europe.