Category Archives: Native Americans

Summer 1978 #tbt

This is where I spent my summer in 1978. #tbt

OSR Tipi Exterior

OSR Tipi Exterior, Dwight McKay

This is the tipi I lived in as part of the staff at Onteora Scout Reservation in upstate New York. This was taken as they were finishing pitching the tipi. I was part of the Troop Leader Training group that ran at OSR before the start of camp, so I was not able to help with the tipi set up, but was able to go visit the tipi for a few minutes while TLT was running. Here’s the interior.

OSR Tipi Interior

OSR Tipi Interior, Dwight McKay

This was my first “dream job”. I taught native crafts, wore native clothing much of the time and loved every minute of it. I learned a lot that summer.

Quill Work

At last month’s Tecumseh Lodge meeting in Indy, Larry Kincer taught a class in quill work. I’ve wanted to give quill work a try, so I was glad to have the opportunity. Embroidery with porcupine quills is an old (17th century) method of native american clothing decoration. Dyed quills are wrapped or woven in patterns.

Quillwork, front side

Frontside of my quillwork practice piece.

We used pre-dyed quills Larry brought and worked on wrapping them in simple rows on strips cut from a plastic container. Thin strips of rawhide would be the preferred material once you get the hang of wrapping, but the plastic strips worked OK for practice. After clipping off the barb from the quill, the quill is softened either by soaking in water or holding it in your mouth. Next, the quill is flattened either by running it between your teeth or using the back of spoon or knife blade. The flattened quills are wrapped around the strip, once or twice depending on length. The end of each quill is bend over beginning of the next quill and the wrapping covers the ends so that they hold each other in place as you can see in the picture below.

Quillwork practice, back side

My practice quillwork piece, back side.

Handling the quills requires some care and a tolerance for occasionally being pricked by the sharp barbs. The barbs are shaped so that your own muscle motion pulls the barb deeper into your skin. Larry had a porcupine hide with him with the guard hair and quills still on. The hide is covered with quills! You can readily see why you would not want to go grabbing one of these animals bare handed!

Almost ready…

My dream of getting back into native american dancing is getting closer. I am close to having all the parts needed for my fancy dance outfit in useable shape. I checked how it all fit together recently and here’s how it looks.

Fancy Dance Outfit 2014-09-21

Test fit of my fancy dance outfit

I’m a lot happier than I look in the photo! Many of the outfit parts are 30+ years old so I’m amazed and glad they are still in workable shape and still fit, especially my lovely, and loud cow bells. I need to clean up the placement of the ties for back bustles and get used to the new feather whips.

There are several things yet to fix, refurbish or outright replace with items more in keeping with a modern era outfit. One I’m working now on is attaching rosettes to the two arm and two back bustles. You can just glimpse the cardboard stand-in for a rosette on my left arm in the picture above. It looks much better with the rosette attached.

Arm Bustle with Rosette

Arm Bustle with Rosette

Having just joined the Tecumseh Lodge after enjoying a brief visit to their powwow in August, I’m planning to go to their October craft meeting and dance practice. I’m hoping to have enough of the fancy outfit ready to take it with me and dance in it. That would be the first time I’d done that in something like 30 years! I’m looking forward to it and to their large social dance this winter.

World Championship Hoop Dance

Hoop Dancer (from Heard Museum)

Powwows.com has an article on the 24th annual world championship hoop dance competition, recently held at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. The videos are amazing.

Back in the late ’70s and early ’80s when I was part of an Explorer Troop that focused on native american dance, one of the things I did was hoop dance. I learned how from a couple old books and a couple of dozen stills and diagrams. It would have been wonderful to have had videos to help me figure out the foot work and transitions