Gifts from Chiefs and Warriors

Bow case and quiver with bow and ten arrows, Upper Missouri River, Mandan or Hidatsa (?), nineteenth century. PM 99-12-10/52944
This Upper Missouri River warrior's shirt made of deer hide was painted with pictographs and adorned with bundles of colored horse hair that testified to the owner’s considerable achievements in war. PM 99-12-10/53041
This Dakota or Lakota raven belt, worn by the leader of a men's war society, may be the earliest surviving plains feather bustle in any museum collection. It is one of three such belts in the Lewis and Clark collection. PM 99-12-10/53049
Quilled belt, leather, Plains/Western Great Lakes. PM 99-12-10/53062
Grizzly bear claw necklace with river otter foundation. Plains Indians. PM 41-54-10/99700

Native American leaders used the practice of gift giving to create and sustain alliances, and were expected to demonstrate the important values of reciprocity and generosity. When Euroamerican military officers and traders formally "dressed" chiefs and leading warriors in military hats and uniforms, they often responded with gifts of their own martial regalia. In their expedition journals, Lewis and Clark described exchanging their own garments, such as shirts, with eminent men from several tribes, including the Nez Perce, Mandan, and Shoshone. The most famous such event occured in August of 1805, when Lewis encountered the Shoshone leader Cameawait. Uncertain of the American's intent, Cameawait dressed Lewis in his own clothing, so that if the party were attacked, the explorer would appear to be one of them.  Lewis immediately reciprocated. When Lewis returned from the expedition, he was painted in his Shoshone regalia, including an otter and ermine tippet or cape that he proclaimed "the most elegant piece of Indian dress I ever saw." The romanticized painting, by C.B.J. Fevret de Saint-Memin, portrayed Lewis as a cross-cultural diplomat.  Charles Willson Peale, a pacifist, executed a similar, life-sized wax model of Lewis (now lost), replacing the gun with a calumet. 

See Castle McLaughlin's article "Awakening the Bear" for more on Lewis and Clark's Grizzly Claw Necklace.