A Portable Object

Interpretation by Cam Shriver

The deer hide is a medium to carry the image. The white-tailed deer lived on the prairies of Illinois and may have been shot with a musket produced in France–entry and possibly exit wounds are visible, as well as stamped, circular hailstones, perhaps produced by a gun muzzle but possibly bone or other tools. Although deerskins became a significant commodity in the eighteenth century, as Miami and Illinois (Peoria) families sold skins for European, Native, and Euro-American footwear manufacturers, this is no commodity. The hide’s processing, from a part of a deer’s body to an artistic surface, required skinning, fleshing, de-hairing (or graining), cleaning, soaking, wringing, and given the holes seen around the edge of the skin, smoking. The resulting object was intended to be durable, and it has lasted centuries. The crafted skin makes the image portable. Stylized artwork like this robe was often given at diplomatic events to reinforce the power of the speaker and his community. Its makers might have intended it to be gifted all along, and it might have been used as a document to reinforce and remember an important meeting–similar to wampum, bead- and quillwork, beaver robes, and other records that could be exchanged and carried between communities.

Return to Interpretations of a Robe homepage