Yesterday, M. and I visited the Ninepipes Museum in Charlo, Montana. I'd read an article earlier this year about financial difficulties at Ninepipes Museum so made a special effort to visit on our way home from Missoula. I'm embarrassed to tell you how many times we've driven by without stopping, even though I'm an arts consultant and even though small, rural museums are my absolute favorite.
I love small museums for lots of different reasons. One is that [often] they show everything they have. They don't have the same hang ups that big city curators do - and that makes the display all that much more interesting -- and appropriate. The Flathead Indian reservation is actually an amalgamation of several different tribes that were relocated to this area - the Salish, the Kootenai, and the Pend d'Oreilles.
So, instead of rows and rows of carefully catalogued embroidery from the same area, you get a wall of cradle boards from a diverse group of tribes. I loved that I could compare the embroidery styles and materials side by side.
I apologize for the poor quality of the photos - I only had my cell phone camera with me.
Here is a collection of rawhide saddles. The one in the center had a breast plate made of aquamarine sequins that looked a lot like the sequins made of gelatin in the 1930's. But I couldn't be sure. Definitely not a practical saddle in that case (gelatin sequins can't get wet).
The Ninepipes Museum had a very informative display about trade beads. You can see some of the trade beads used on the Flathead Indian reservation on the museum website. This basket is made of deer hide and decorated with hooves and trade beads.
And, unlike a big museum, much of the collection has been donated by locals, many of whom have saved these items as family heirlooms or personal collections. Many of the tags listed names from the valley that were familiar to me.
The clothing was amazing. This is a pair of trousers, sewn from a red wool Pendleton blanket and and embellished at the cuff with bead embroidery. The embroidered shirt has ermine skins on each sleeve. I think this was made in the 1930's, but I'm not 100 percent.
There is a much better photo of the ermine sleeve garment on the Ninepipes website.
I also appreciated seeing this dress. Cut from a wool blanket and embellished with elk ivories. Elk have just two ivory teeth and are very difficult to get. By wearing this garment, a woman would have been showing her skill as a hunter (or that of her husband or other family member.)
The Jesuit mission is an important part of the history of the Flathead Indian Reservation and it remains predominantly Roman Catholic.
Here, Chief Charlo is talking with Fr. Taelman, who first came to the the area in 1890. Salish Chief Paul Charlo was bitterly opposed to the land allotment policies the U. S. Government assigned to Indians. I learned that he made many trips to Washington, DC to speak with representatives.
Fr. Taelman was fluent in Salish and translated the Latin Mass each day. He spent most of his life working on this reservation. He died in 1962 and his last rites were said at St. Ignatius Mission. Several items from the early Jesuit years were on display at Ninepipes Museum.
The embroidery on these vestments was pretty amazing. Next visit, I bring the good camera.
Finally, let me share a beautiful parfleche, or carry bag, made of rawhide. A parfleche was most often used to carry food.
I really enjoyed my visit. And I appreciated seeing all the hand made items in the gift shop. I regret not purchasing a pocket-sized parfleche. I may go back for it.
Today's challenge: Identify a museum or community space that you have passed by many times without visiting. Stop in - even if it is only for twenty minutes - and report in.