Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Summer 2008


Great Plains Quarterly Volume 28, Number 3, Summer 2008, pp. 245.


Copyright 2008 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


The National Museum of the American Indian published this book in conjunction with a 2007 exhibition of the same title. The book and the exhibition focus on women's dresses and related clothing and accessories from the North American Plains, Plateau, and Great Basin regions dating from the 1830s to the present, although the majority of the clothing and writing relates to the Plains.

After a foreword by then NMAI director W. Richard West Jr., exhibition curator and book editor Emil Her Many Horses provides an introductory chapter addressing the familial and spiritual significance of women's decorated dresses and describing basic designs and materials used in creating such beautiful attire. Lakota artist Colleen Cutschall, who served as co-curator of the exhibition, writes on some of the historical and contemporary social and ceremonial contexts in which women created and wore decorated dresses. Interestingly, this section includes one example from the White Mountain Apache of the Southwest accompanied by a description of the Jicarilla Apache Keesda Ceremony, presented within a very general discussion of Plains puberty ceremonies and the Plains Sun Dance. Janet Catherine Berlo's essay on women's creativity and aesthetics deals with many of the same topics as the first two chapters, with an emphasis on materials obtained through Native and Euro American trade networks. Quotations from contemporary Native dressmakers and bead workers are included in each of the chapters and in a concluding page titled "Women's Work is Never Done."