This post is the result of informal discussions between the following authors over the last few months. Inspired by the The Great Lakes Research Alliance for the Study of Aboriginal Arts & Cultures (GRASAC) exhibits, we distilled some of our ideas into brief, complementary interpretations, centered on a single–but complex–object.
Now held at the Musée du Quai Branly, Paris, the deer hide you see here is one of several surviving and stylistically similar painted hides produced at or near the same time, probably in the period 1680-1750. This is a Miami-Illinois piece and therefore it resonates in distinct ways for their descendants, the Miami and Peoria people. At the same time, other Indigenous communities from Inohkinki ‘the place of the Inohka (Illinois)’ region and beyond themselves made objects echoing the techniques and motifs we see here.
Our conversations frequently focused as much on questions than their answers. What should we call this piece? Who made it, and why? How did it end up in Paris, France? And what does this one object tell us about the larger world of its maker–Illinois art, trade, hunting, and worldviews? What are the stories, the objects, and the histories that contextualize this deer robe?
Dave Costa is Director of the Language Research Office at the Myaamia Center
Liz Ellis is an Assistant Professor of History at New York University and a citizen of the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma
George Ironstrack is Assistant Director of the Myaamia Center and a citizen of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma
Bob Morrissey is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Illinois
Scott Shoemaker is Thomas G. & Susan C. Hoback Curator of Native American Art, History & Culture at the Eiteljorg Museum and a citizen of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma
Cam Shriver is a Myaamia Research Associate in the Myaamia Center