Unknown artist, Dakota; North American Indian; Sioux; Sisseton
Dress, late 19th century-early 20th century
Wool plain weave with silk ribbon, sequin, and shell appliqué
Center back length: 133.4 cm (52 1/2 inches)
Museum Works of Art Fund 44.592
The Dakota tribes (Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota), together with the Cheyenne and Arapaho, occupied much of the northern Great Plains from the eighteenth century to the beginning of the reservation system in the 1860s and 1870s. The basic women’s dress throughout this period was a garment made of two soft animal skins, either elk or deer, seamed at the sides. When the heavy English fabric called stroud was introduced as trade cloth, Dakota women began to use it for dresses but kept the original skin pattern complete with “legs” at the skirt’s side edges. RISD’s dress is ornamented at the neck with precious tusk shells, acquired from the Puget Sound area through an established native trade network.