Offset Lithography

A Nez Perce woman and man in their finest dress and horse gear, ride in the sun and dust to a celebration in the late nineteenth century. Many of the objects, however, are family heirlooms, dating back many decades. The woman’s dress of softly tanned mountain sheep skins, heavily embroidered with pony beads, is of the style of the mid-century. Some of these very early dresses are still in use among Plateau people. Her horse’s headstall and its hand-forged Mexican bit are of the same period, as are her companion’s pony-beaded shirt and leggings, with their long, porcupine quill wrapped fringes.

A pair of large, tapered, cylindrical cases of painted rawhide with trailing fringes of heavy buckskin, sometimes called war bonnet cases, hangs on the sides of her parade horse, over a thickly fringed and beaded double saddlebag. Her blanket strip and saddle are of a style made also by the Crows and may have been traded from them. However, Plateau people had them in profusion and probably made many of them, as well as elaborate horse collars of the Crow type. This one is a distinctively Plateau variant on that style. The pony-bead dress and basketry hat is uniquely Plateau.

Although also seen on the northern plains, the striking horse headdress of beaded trade cloth and feathers was a more frequent sight of festive occasions on the Plateau warriors in the nineteenth century. Many of them were of the upright type like this one, with broad brow-bands of simple design and a profusion of dyed hackle feathers and ermine fringes.