America, Native North American, Central Plains, Lakota Sioux, 19th century
hide, pigment, glass beads, human hair, Overall - h:97.80 w:150.00 cm (h:38 1/2 w:59 inches). Bequest of David S. McMillan 1984.1046
Scalp shirts are among the most spectacular garmets produced by the Plains Indians. Lakota Sioux scalp shirts were often painted blue or green on the upper half (to symbolize the sky) and yellow on the lower half (indicating the earth). The locks of hair attached to the shirt are not actually scalps. Instead they were usually donated by family members or friends. Each lock represents a war exploit performed by the shirt's owner. Additional ornamentation was provided by panels of Venetian glass beads, sewn to the leather with sinew thread. During the Reservation Period (after 1870) warfare ceased, and scalp shirts became items of formal or ceremonial attire.