I have been asked to make a costume for a young student who will be portraying Chief Washakie at her elementary school. I would like the costume to be as authentic as possible. Can you help me find appropriate representations?
–Submitted by Miki P.
Linguistically, the Shoshone and the Paiute are a Numic people with direct linkages to the Comanche and Utes (Uto-Aztecan) to the south, to the Bannock to the east, and to the western Nevada and northern California Paiutes.
The Western Shoshone (the Newe) and the Northern Paiute (Numa) often had contact with each other and established respect for each other’s language and mingling of culture prior to European contact.
Chief Washakie was the last free roaming chief of the Eastern Shoshone. In many photographs, Chief Washakie is wearing a scarf threaded through a large silver concho disc.
The Shoshone and later the northern Paiute were among the first northern tribes to benefit from the adoption of the horse. Thus, the horse is a common Shoshone symbol, as it is in many northern Plains tribes.
Parallel lines and rectangles, sometimes called a “boxed eye” motif, are commonly found in Shoshone quilled rawhide and beadwork patterns.
The use of a blue field for the background, and the rectangular motif with the strong use of cobalt, red, and especially, “greasy” yellow seed beads is a favorite Shoshone pattern. Traditionally Shoshone clothing had short fringes.
Three very common Shoshone symbols are snakes, the sun, and eggs, which are “the fruit of a sky animal.” Geometric designs are often used on parfleche bags and in beadwork patterns.
The Sun symbol appears in many forms, including a circle, rays, a circle with rays, as concentric circles or as a circle surrounded by dots. Variations of this common design are numerous, and common to many cultures.
The Snake is a symbol of water and fertility. It sometimes appears realistically, with head and tail. It also appears as a simple wavy line, sometimes symbolizing a river.
A concentric spiral has special significance as the Place Of Emergence, symbolic of the center of the cosmos or the Mother Earth naval from which the earliest people emerged.
Butterflies are another common Shoshone symbol. Shoshone Indians believed that butterfles were originally pebbles, into which the Great Spirit blew the precious breath of life.
Flowers, the rose in particular, are another common theme in Shoshone bead patterns.
The Shoshoni people saw the Wolf as a creator God and they respected him greatly. This symbol is prominent in Shoshone art.
The Rake or Comb is a rain motif used by many tribes, including the Shoshone. Lizards, frogs, toads and turtles are all bringers of rain. Turtles also symbolize a long life.
Ft.Washakie is the Headquarters of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe. There you’ll find Sacajawea’s (the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition guide) grave site.
LINKS OF THE WEEK:
Official web site of the Eastern Shoshone.
Sunburst symbol painted on Shoshone horse
Chief Washakie Foundation. Five pages of examples of Shoshone beadwork, plus a page of painted hides, a page of dolls, a page of Shoshone geometric painted parfleche bags, and a page of baskets. Click on the thumbnails to see larger pictures. Also history and several pictures of Chief Washakie. Links to additional resources.