Toy Tipis Page Two

Model one

16" tall and about a 12" footprint. c.1890 and in very nice shape with a wonderful patina. Muslin cover with faint remains of birds painted on sides. Hide medallions on both sides of doors. A classic southern plains (Cheyenne Style). Collected by F.F. Avery a well known photographer around the turn of the century. Frank Fuller (known as F.F.) Avery was born in Indiana on February 24, 1862. The exact date of his entrance into Indian work is not known, but he was already employed by the Indian Service prior to his marriage in 1892. Before moving to Washington State he and his wife were employed by the Indian Service in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Crow Creek, North Dakota. From about 1898 to 1916 Avery was connected with the Colville Indian Agency, first as superintendent of the Indian Boarding School at Fort Spokane, and then as inspector of Colville Agency Day Schools. This item came from the family collection.

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Model Two

is very similar to two Cheyenne examples now in the American Museum of Natural History collection (Cat.# 50.1/6499 and 50.1/6500), both merely attributed as "Plains". One has been illustrated in Maurer, 1992: Pl. 244; the other in La Farge, 1956: 158. All three share a characteristic shape, less than a half circle; similar quill-wrapped dangles and attachments; and a motif of pictographic figures framed by colored borders.

This cover is painted in black ink and tempera in yellow, blue, green and red, on brain-tanned deerskin; 13 leather magenta quill wrapped dangles have tufts of bison hair at ends. Hide is pieced with cotton thread stitching at smoke flaps, across top, and along one front opening. Stitching occurs in two other places, each about 1" long. Tipi has one 4" wooden peg used for closing top. Dimensions are 27.5" high (tip of flap between smoke hole flaps and through center) x 48" (from bottom front to bottom front).

An examination of similar models is helpful. In his publication Maurer noted that the ethnologist James Mooney commissioned a series of Kiowa model tipis for the Bureau of American Ethnology in 1893, and another series of model tipis from the Southern Cheyennes in 1903-04. With this encouragement some Cheyenne families appear to have made other models, which may have been marketed to other visitors in the same period. The two model tipis in the American Museum collection were purchased by the wife of the artist Walter Shirlaw sometime prior to 1912. However, there is also good documentation for Cheyenne children using exactly the same type of toys in the same period (Aadland, 1996: 101). Note that all such models represent a cooperation between wife and husband in the same family. The leather was tanned, the pattern cut and sewn, and the quilled ornamentation done by the wife; while the painted decoration was added by the husband. Maurer (1992: Pl. 244) observed: "The men soon found that their former principal occupations of war, horse raiding and hunting were the most sought after subjects among collectors..."

Various Plains Indian tribes produced similar model tipis, including the Sioux, Arapahoes, Shoshones Blackfeet and Crees, as well as the Kiowas and Cheyennes, and doubtless others. It is diagnostic details of dress portrayed on the figures of this particular tipi cover, and warrior society regalia specific to the Cheyenne tribe, which allow us to specify the tribal origin.

The figure at lower left represents a member of the Dog Soldier society of the Southern Cheyennes, wearing a distinctive type of headdress formed of a leather cap entirely covered by individually-attached raven, crow or magpie tail feathers that stood out around the head in globular form. Each of these dark feathers is tipped with a yellow-dyed fluff. A crest of golden eagle tail feathers was attached to the midline of the cap. Each eagle feather shown here is tipped with a spot of white gypsum glue, and an attached yellow fluff . At any one time, there were four officers of the Dog Soldier society who were privileged to wear these headdresses (see Cowdrey, 1999: 78-82, Pls. 64 & 65 ; and Grinnell, 1926, Vol. II: 63-72 , for a discussion of Dog Soldier regalia).

The Sioux, as well as other Plains tribes, also employed similar headdresses. Among the Sioux, it was the Miwatanni Warrior Society which had regalia most like the Cheyenne Dog Soldiers. The Miwatanni globular headdresses, however, generally were made of owl feathers, and most often were worn with an accompanying, long sash, which might be used by the warrior to stake himself to the ground during a desperate battle, as a signal that he would die in that spot, rather than submit to his foes. While the Cheyenne Dog Soldier Society employed similar "stake sashes", they were generally used by other officers than those wearing the globular headdresses. (see Bad Heart Bull, 1967: 106-107, and Pls. 125, 228, 260 & 268) for examples of Oglala Sioux Miwatanni Society officers wearing the globular headdress and "stake sash" together. Compare Densmore, 1918: Pls. 65, 68 for examples of Hunkpapa Sioux Miwatanni Society officers wearing the headdress and "stake sash" together. A photograph of a Minneconjou Sioux Miwatanni officer wearing both the distinctive headdress and sash is given by Cowdrey, 1999: Fg. 29. The ABSENCE of the "stake sash" on the man depicted on this tipi cover identifies him specifically as a Cheyenne, rather than a Sioux. See Cowdrey, 1999: Pls. 64 & 65, for two examples of Cheyenne Dog Soldier officers wearing only their globular headdresses; and compare Afton, 1997: Pl. 34, for a Cheyenne Dog Soldier Society officer wearing only his "stake sash", but no headdress.

On the tipi cover, the Dog Soldier figure has his face painted red, also typical of the society. He wears a green cloth shirt, red wool breech cloth, and dark blue (shown as black) wool leggings decorated with beaded strips. His parted hair is wrapped on the right side with strips of red wool cloth; and on the left side with strips of dressed otterskin. He is armed only with a light-cavalry saber, the hilt trimmed with a split otterskin decorated with yellow-dyed golden eagle feathers. Compare Cowdrey, 1999: Plates 2, 3 & 5 for other Cheyenne drawings showing use of similar sabers; and Cowdrey, 1999: Fg. 4, for a ca 1867 photograph of a Southern Cheyenne man carrying a light-cavalry saber of this type. On the tipi cover, the third horseman from the left in the bottom row, another Cheyenne figure, carries a similar saber, although the eagle feathers attached to its otterskin pendants have been dyed red, rather than yellow.

The Dog Soldier's horse is protected with a series of talismanic devices. Hanging from its bit are yellow-dyed golden eagle feathers and locks of human hair, similar to the complete scalps seen at the bits of two other horses on this cover. Human hair in Cheyenne symbolism represented the spiritual essence of an individual. The scalplock, worn only by males, represented the phallus or male essence. An enemy scalp tied to the bit of a war charger indicated that horse had previously been used to overcome or "eat" the spirit of an enemy. Here, we see it performing a similar service. The horse's tail is wrapped with red wool cloth, and ornamented with a fan of golden eagle tail feathers. The entire coat of this war horse has been painted with a "storm" of crimson hailstones. Hail, of the baseball-sized variety often encountered on the Plains, produces a drumming thunder as it falls that is similar to the sound of a running herd of buffalo. Nothing can withstand that trampling power, so it was a logical, protective leitmotif for charging horses. (See Cowdrey, 1999: Pls. 19 & 21, for two very similar, Cheyenne examples.)

The enemy figure whom the Dog Soldier is knocking off of his horse may be recognized as a Pawnee from his very short-cropped hair with standing scalplock, as well as by his distinctive, black-dyed, high-cuffed moccasins (Cowdrey, 1999: 44-45, 65-66; Pl. 7, 17, 27 ; and Fgs. 12, 13, 24 & 25). Although the blow is not represented, we are meant to understand that the Dog Soldier has slashed forward with the saber, knocking the Pawnee from his horse. We may infer this from the enemy's declining position, as well as from the arrow which has been knocked out of his hands before it could be fired. Cheyennes attached especial recognition to striking an enemy with a weapon held in the hand, rather than merely shooting him from afar. It was more dangerous to do so, and earned higher praise. This unfortunate Pawnee is about to end his days on the tips of the two swords closing on him from the left and the right.

The figure third from the right in the lower row, carrying a green and yellow shield hung with eagle feathers and blue-dyed fluffs, is another Cheyenne. His red face paint may indicate membership in the Dog Soldier Society, but he is not one of the officers marked out by special regalia. His unusual hair style, with the long locks wrapped into a projecting horn above the center of his forehead, mark him as a member of the Suhtaio, a smaller tribe that joined with the Tsistsistas or Cheyennes proper during the 18th century (Grinnell, 1926, Vol. I: 87). A single eagle feather is tied to the tip of his wrapped hair. This man wears yellow-painted leather leggings, a red wool breechcloth and a red-spotted calico shirt. The irregular red spots on his horse are intended as natural markings. A yellow-silk scarf is tied to the horse's bit, and its tail is wrapped with red wool cloth and decorated with an eagle feather. The two short lines painted on the horse's left hip are a distinctive Cheyenne marking, which probably connoted speed, and a wish for sure-footedness. (See the discussion in Cowdrey, 1999: 22-23, and Pls. 7, 79, 92 & 137.) By comparison, although hundreds of Sioux horse-paint designs are documented in Bad Heart Bull, 1967, this simple motif is not employed even a single time.

The figure second from the right in the lower row is a warrior society officer wearing a leather shirt trimmed with beaded strips on the shoulders and arms, and fringed with scalplocks and eagle feathers dyed yellow. The top of the garment is painted blue, while the lower section is painted yellow. Both Cheyennes and Sioux wore shirts of this type. Given the long alliance between the two tribes, and the many times men of both groups went to war together, it is not possible to certainly discern which tribe is represented here. However, as all of the other protagonists depicted on this tipi cover are demonstrably Cheyenne, it seems most likely that this figure is intended as Cheyenne also.

The men depicted at lower right, and second from left in the upper row, wear eagle feather headdresses of the type preferred by the Cheyennes, with a tight, upright cone of feathers. Sioux headdresses, by comparison, generally were more open, and lay against the upper back of the wearer. The yellow-painted tubes of ermine skin flowing back from either side of the face are also a Cheyenne hallmark (see Cowdrey, 1999: Pls. 5, 17, 19, 21, 27, 65, & 163-165).

At upper left of this tipi cover is an unusual, frontal-perspective view of a figure on horseback. Cheyennes had been producing such perspectives at least since the early-1870's (see Cowdrey, 1999: Pls. 67, 120 & 144). Its inclusion here is an indication of the artist's virtuosity. Probably the black-spotted horse was drawn first, leaving not enough room to the left for another figure in profile. Again, we recognize the yellow-painted ermine skins trailing from the back of the horned headdress as typical of Cheyenne usage.

The lance carried by this rider bears another, diagnostic Cheyenne detail: the forked pennon affixed behind the blade. Iinspired by the lance pennons of Mexican soldados, or provincial cavalry, that Cheyennes encountered on horse raids into Neuva Mexico, this forked shape is called by Cheyennes the "hetanehao" , or "male power" design. It represents the red, rising sun, source of masculine power, and also the red, erect phallus. The intent was to flaunt the masculinity of the bearer, literally in the face of the enemy (see Powell, 1969: 437-38; Cowdrey, 1999: 221-225, Fgs. 59 & 61, and Pl. 165).

The central figure in the top row rides a spectacular leopard-appaloosa, a horse considered all the more powerful because its natural markings invoked the "hail stone" protective motif discussed earlier. The animal has previously carried this rider when he had dispatched an enemy, as indicated by the human scalp dangling below its jaw. In addition to its protective spotted coat, the horse has been painted with a solid black band along the spine, running from its ears, to its wrapped tail. For Cheyennes, black is the color of death, while red is the color of blood, hence life. This man has transformed his mount, symbolically, into a vehicle of destruction to the enemy. The Dog Soldier figure at lower left has employed similar symbolism, but with reverse intent: he has seated himself squarely at the center of the red road of Life, whence no enemy may strike him.

A final, diagnostic Cheyenne detail is the alternating black and yellow bands of the horse's mane. This design was created by coloring sections of the black mane with yellow paint. This is one of the hallmark patterns employed by members of the Bowstring Warrior Society among the Southern Cheyennes, and their affiliates the Crazy Dog Society among the Northern Cheyennes. Similar bands of hairlocks were employed on some lances, rawhide rattles, and the shirts and leggings of some officers of these two organizations.

The enemy figure at upper right wears a hooded coat or capote made of a striped woolen blanket. This indicates the action of this particular vignette occurred during the cooler weather of early spring or late autumn. Probably it was not a winter encounter, or the Cheyenne would also be dressed more warmly. There is nothing distinctive in this enemy's appearance to indicate his tribe. We cannot see his hairstyle, or any other diagnostic detail. Most likely he was either Shoshone or Crow.

While the geometric emblems painted on Cheyenne tipis had deep symbolical significance, those that were employed on the models intended for sale were merely generic designs, lacking in specific meaning. Likewise, the purple-dyed quillwork is an intentional departure from the tipi decorations produced by the Cheyenne Women's Sewing Society, for use within the tribe.

Cowan's Historic Americana Auctions
673 Wilmer Avenue
Cincinnati, OH 45226





Toy Tipis One