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SHIELDS PLAINS INDIANS
Page 7 of 7

FOUR TYPES OF SHIELDS ~ CONCLUSION
 

There were four types of shields which were used on the Plains: the dance shield, which was a lightweight version of the war shield; the medicine or holy man's shield (See Examples Below), the miniature shield, which was a small copy of a warrior's war shield, and which he sometimes carried on long journeys in place of the war shield; and the war shield.

 
   

TWO OF THREE PIECES OF THE COMPLETE MEDICINE PARAPHERNALIA OF A SIOUX PRIEST. THE TOP PIECE CONSISTS OF A SACRED FLUTE, BOW, ARROWS, AND RATTLE-LADEN WITH FUR AND BEADS.

THE LOWER PIECE IS A BUFFALO HIDE SHIELD WITH PAINTED SYMBOLS, RED FELT RIBBONS, HERB POUCHES, EAGLE FEATHERS, PAINTED BEADS, AND WOODEN BEAR CLAWS.


 

 
   

MEDICINE SHIELD OF OWL, CHEYENNE MEDICINE MAN. MADE AT FORT MARION, FLORIDA, WHILE OWL WAS
A PRISONER THERE FROM 1875 TO 1878.

FRONT VIEW OF SHIELD, WITH BUFFALO, HAIL, SNAKE, AND LIGHTNING SYMBOLS, CUT OWL FEATHERS, AND BUFFALO TAIL SWITCH.


 

 

 

The war shield was made in three varieties.

The least-used variety, and one which has not been described in the previous shield material, was made by stitching four or five layers of flat rawhide together, cutting these in the traditional round shape, and then decorating the front side of the hide with feathers and strips of cloth.

A second variety was made by forming the hide around a wooden of hoop. Many kinds of hoop shields were constructed, but these called for a thinner and weaker hide than those made by the third means, which was the heat-shrinking process.

Most war shields by far were fashioned this way, for the shrinking produced
a thick hide and it was easier to press into a concave or convex shape which aided deflection.

 

 

Prior to the arrival of the horse, Plains war shields were quite large-often being three feet or more in diameter. These were much too cumbersome for mounted men, though, and so the size was reduced until the average war shield measured only eighteen inches in diameter .

 

 

Young men often went as initiates on their first or second raid without a shield. And men who journeyed on foot into enemy territory did not always carry heavy shields. But the shield was the final piece of equipment constructed by a young man preparing to take up his full adult responsibilities. He might make several more shields "during his active period as a warrior, but the first one, coupled with his personal medicines, gave him the initial protection and confidence he needed to share the full responsibilities of a raid or war party to be carried out on horseback. He would also use the shield for defense if his village was attacked.

 

 

Medicine shields were usually covered with the most intriguing appendages and symbols, but the war shields were the truly sumptuous creations. Some of them would rank with the finest artworks of all time-and yet a shield was much more than a piece of art. To the Indian, a shield vibrated with power, and by sunning it, he could contirtue to draw power from above into it for an indefinite time. Small wonder then it was placed by his side to protect him when he made his final journey into the Mystery Land of the dead.

 
     

CROW WARRIOR WITH FULL WAR BONNET AND SHIELD DECORATED WITH EAGLE TAIL FEATHERS.


 

To Read More About the Plains Indians Find the Book-
"The Mystic Warriors of the Plains", written by Thomas E. Mails
FOOTNOTES
 

1.   Dodge, "33 Years Among Our Wild lndians", p. 422
2.   Schultz, "Blackfeet and Buffalo", p. 144-54
3.   Hofsinde, "Indian Warriors and Their Weapons", pp. 74-75
4.   Linderman, "Plenty Coups", pp. 279-80
5.   Wildschut, "Crow Indian Medicine Bundles", p. 72
6.   Ewers, "The Horse in Blackfoot Indian Culture", p. 203. See also Catlin, "North
      American Indians", Vol. II, p. 241, and Grinnell, "The Story of the Indian", p. 153
7.   Grant, American Indians Yesterday and Today, p. 285
8.   Salomon, "The Book of Indian Crafts and Indian Lore", pp. 179-82
9.   Lehman, "Nine Years Among the Indians", pp. 25-27
10. Grant, op. cit., p. 285
11. Catlin, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 241
12. Tunis, "Indians", p. 100
13. Lowie, "The Northern Shoshone", p. 193
14. Grinnell, "The Cheyenne Indians", pp. 187-202
15. Bass, "The Arapaho Way", p. 33
16. Hassrick, "The Sioux", p. 199
17. Lehman, op. cit., pp. 25-26. See also Wallace, "The Comanches", pp. 106-7

 

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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