War exploit robe - ROM2004_948_20

ROM2004_948_20

War exploit robe

Maker: Painted by Running Rabbit, Blackfoot Siksika
Medium:Painted buffalo hide (furred)
Geography: Siksika Reserve, Alberta, Canada
Date: 1909
Dimensions:
190 × 170 cm
Object number: 977X1.3
Credit Line: Edmund Morris Collection
Not on view
Description

The artist Edmund Morris commissioned Running Rabbit, chief of the North Blackfoot tribe, to paint his war exploits in the traditional manner on a buffalo hide. Morris had brought the hide, which had been used as a sleigh robe, from Toronto. Traditionally, such a painting served as a pictograph record of a warrior's deeds, and wearing it as a robe announced his elevated status to the community. The figures on the Running Rabbit robe are colour-coded: the Blackfoot in blue, the enemy Cree in red, and the enemy Crow in yellow. It was probably Running Rabbit's son, White Man, who drew the more realistic looking bear and buffalo vignettes around the perimeter of the robe, and perhaps the more central figure of the archer. Morris recorded the execution of the painting in a series of photographs. One shows Running Rabbit explaining the events on the robe to a group of Blackfoot dignitaries, while his son Houghton writes down the stories in English for the collector.

Edmund Morris lived from 1871 to 1913, a period of rapid transition in which the Plains Indian tribes shifted from nomadic dependence on the buffalo to settlement on parcels of land called “reserves.” From 1907 to 1911, Edmund journeyed to reserves in the newly formed prairie provinces to create an intimate and thoughtful record of Indian life through pastel sketches, photography, the written word, and a collection of artifacts. As the youngest son of Alexander Morris, the Lieutenant Governor who negotiated most of the Plains Indian treaties, Edmund had a deep commitment to his task. His work provides remarkable insight into the lives of the Plains people and their communities. In 1913 he donated his extraordinary collection of artifacts and his diary to the Royal Ontario Museum, the same year the Province of Ontario transferred to the musuem its collection of 58 Plains portraits by Morris.


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