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According to the paintings of Russell, Remington, and Koerner, a warrior carried his shield on foot or horseback in several different ways. Ordinarily the loop of the shield was hung around the warrior's neck, and the shield itself was carried on his back. The quiver was carried horizontally underneath or below it. The shield loop was knotted in front to pull the shield snugly to the back to prevent loss or bouncing while traveling.


During engagements, the shield was shifted to where it could be brought into play by the left arm, and raised or lowered to ward off arrows or bullets.


Judging by most paintings and photographs, when not carried on the warrior's back, the shield was hung from the saddle cantle on the left side of the horse-again, with the loop knotted and the shield pulled snugly to the horse. The left side attachment was not an absolute, however, and some warriors hung them on the right. They were also hung from the pommel, and so were sometimes in front of and underneath the rider's legs.

The loop was usually attached to the back of the shield with its tie on the left back tie point placed a bit higher than the tie point on the right. When carried over the shoulder this allowed the shield design itself to remain straight for the benefit of all who viewed it.


It is commonly believed that the shield front, or side held toward the enemy, was convex. Yet some shields in the Harvey Collection, the Gilcrease Institute, the Southwest Museum, and the San Diego Museum of Man are concave, as was the Comanche shield just mentioned.

There are two reasons for this.

The first is that a concave shield provided better deflection than a convex one, since an obstacle striking the loosely held shield caused it to yield and turn around the arm. The convex shield, in moving, tended to deflect the arrow or bullet into head or legs, whereas the concave shield provided a lip to help shunt them away.

The second was that a concave shield provided a dish or basket into which the numerous feathers and other medicine items could be neatly packed or folded.


Museum shields are seldom smooth and round. Admittedly, some of them may have warped considerably over the years, yet at best they were irregular circles and of a somewhat uneven surface in the beginning. Shrinking and cutting and pounding such a heavy hide obviously had its difficulties and effect.

When not being carried by the warrior, the shield was placed outside the tipi on a sunny day on a tripod at the rear or west side. It was placed there as a bulwark to protect the lodge owner against attack or evil spirits approaching on his "blind" side. Blackfoot tipis often had two tripod racks behind them. One tripod held the shield and the other the medicine bundle. It was, however, equally common to place both on the same tripod.
Placing the shield outside was called "sunning the shield," and the Indians believed that it was being further infused with power from the sun.

The Kiowas said that anyone violating the taboos concerning the placement and care of shields was subject to certain disgrace and disaster.

Drawings and paintings also show tripods of different heights, some not more than five feet, some ten or more feet tall. Photographs hit a mid-point, and are probably the best guide, indicating a tripod of seven or eight feet at its apex.


PAGES IN THIS ARTICLE Intro~ About Shields and Shield Making ] Pictures of Shields of Various Tribes ] To Make a Standard Shield ] To Make a Wooden Hoop Shield ] Description of a Comanche Shield ] [ How the Shield Was Carried ] Four Types of Shields ~ Conclusion ~ Footnotes ]

SHIELDS: Life Living Art ~ Original Snow Owl Article



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