Medicine Plant Mask: “Cappy’s Medicine”
Tags:Antique Beads, Beads, Bells, Brass Beads, Cloth, Fiber, Fine Metals, Horse, Ribbon, Seed Beads, Sequins, Wool
“This mask was made with the prayers and intent for healing for my horse Cappy, whom I have had since birth. He is a special horse, and has his own story. Cappy is the son of a horse that was rescued from a slaughterhouse kill pen for $10 over her meat value. Cappy ended up becoming a unbeatable show horse in the high sport of dressage; the ribbons represent the many winning ribbons he won. The military buttons are a mention to my father, and in another story, is the reason this horse came to be. The (imitation eagle) feathers are for his bravery. This horse has never failed me. Cappy is an Appaloosa, the horse breed that comes from Eastern Washington, Oregon and Idaho, and was developed by the Nez Perce tribe, as well as surrounding area tribes.
Horse masking is a tradition among the Plateau peoples. Masks all have deep personal meanings. Some are connected to medicine bundles, and some are personal narratives. Unlike other tribes where masks were reserved for men’s use, on the Plateau both men and women are seen to ride with them. Some of the historic masks are still family-owned and make appearances annually in Tribal horse parades like Yakama Treaty Days, the Ellensberg Stampede Parade and The Pendleton Round-Up. They are experiencing a comeback of use among tribes across the west.
I found out in May–after a series of other dramatic life events–that Cappy had cancer. Because it was already in his lymphatic system there was little that could be done for him. Surgery was not an option. But the vet suggested one thing, a newly-discovered possibility for treatment: twice daily doses of antihistamines. They block cancer’s inflammation process, and allow the body’s own immune system to take hold. It worked! The tumors on his chest have disappeared, and his lymph nodes and thyroid are also back to normal. He is healthy and doing well. I made this mask in gratefulness to those answered prayers. The flowers represent medicinal plants used in his healing, and the brass spots are the pills he takes twice a day.”
-Angela Swedberg, Autumn 2019
Photos show Cappy wearing the horse mask.