Minohsaya ‘Painted Hide’ Workshop Recap

As blog readers may recall, a group of artists, educators, and scholars have been discussing Myaamia and Peewaalia ‘Miami and Peoria’ painted hides held in a museum in Paris, France, and thinking about revitalizing the meaning and practice of this artistic form. In early August of 2022, a group got together in Miami, Oklahoma. The goal? Practice painting deerskin hides, and continue brainstorming what it might mean for our understanding of the past and present.

Small piece of hide with paint and a bone tool
A miniature ciinkwia minohsaya and bone tool. Photo by Doug Peconge.

In addition to the enjoyment of being together as Miami and Peoria citizens and allies, the summit included several learning sessions. Two highlights were collaborator and artist Jamie Jacobs (Tonawanda Seneca) discussing artistic change over time in his community, and Michael Galban (Washoe/Mono Lake Paiute) helping us to make paint from alamooni ‘ochre’ and design tobacco pouches from brain-tanned deerskin. Michael is the manager and curator of the Ganondagan State Historic Site’s Seneca Art & Culture Center in upstate New York. We all feel a deep sense of gratitude to Michael and Jamie for traveling to Miami, Oklahoma and sharing their knowledge with us. 

Group watching a demonstration of painting a brain-tanned skin
Members of the working group watch guest Michael Galban mix and apply paint to a brain-tanned skin at a session hosted by the Peoria Tribe in August, 2022. Photo by Doug Peconge

As a group, we discussed aesthetics, the culturally specific identification of artistic beauty in objects and performances. It is clear enough that the old minohsayaki ‘painted hides’ are artistic expressions of their makers from back in the 1700s. The Illinois minohsayaki share commonalities with other communities, from the Senecas in New York to the Cherokees of the South, to Osages to the West. We spent a lot of time considering the aesthetic grammar of the colors and shapes inscribed on the robes. Storyteller George Ironstrack also helped put the minohsaya into conversation with Miami-Illinois culture stories, such as the Young Thunder Beings, cinkweensaki. In more focused dialogues we also thought about the diplomatic uses of gifting robes like those now held in Paris. Scott Shoemaker showed the continuation of aesthetic forms into the ribbonwork of the more modern eras, and cultural practitioners (including both Cultural Resource/Preservation Offices from the Miamis and Peorias, respectively) deepened our appreciation for community needs today.

If you have a chance, visit the Myaamia Heritage Museum and Archive in Miami, Okla. “Minohsaya: Myaamia & Peewaalia Hide Art” is an exhibit open at 28 N Main St. curated by Morgan Lippert and Meghan Dorey. It is an excellent display and worth a visit.

Miami and Peoria people are working together in considering why hide painting deserves revitalization, as well as how to accomplish that objective. Please, reach out if you want to be part of the conversation!

Neewe to Doug Peconge and Eric Toups for their photography throughout the summit.

Participant mixing pigments for paint
Miami Tribe historian Nate Poyfair mixes pigment to make paint. Photo by Doug Peconge
Yellow tempera pigment on the left and yellow ochre on the right of a bowl
Oonsaalamooni, “yellow ochre.” Pigment is on the right, while the mixed pigment and (in this case) chicken egg emulsion (a binding agent) creates a tempera, on the left. Photo by Doug Peconge
Paint being applied with a wood stylus
A participant uses a wood stylus to apply paint. Photo by Doug Peconge

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Pam says:

    This is so interesting. I’m especially interested in the gathering and making of paint supplies, and the tool used. Was it a bone?

    1. aya noohkwa! For the stylus tools we used wood, bone, and antler. Each tool type had advantages and disadvantages depending on what kind of design one was trying to depict.

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