Crow beadwork is critical to the cultural survival of the cultural identity of the crow woman because of its impacts their prosperity and strengthens the bonds among female among the crow tribe. My knowledge on beadwork isn’t considerably known, it is quite complicated to know the history of beadwork. It was a fascinated subject to research. According to the research The Crow people were ancestral in the North Dakota and then migrated into Montana, during the early to mid-1700’s. They are also known as Apsaalooke in their own Siouan language. Today they are recognized tribe known as the Crow Tribe of Montana. The Crow people were a nomadic group of hunters who roamed the Great Plains in search of buffalo. They were kin to the Hidatsa tribe. In Montana, they were monadic people and developed their long- standing reputation for being skillful bead artists.
There were three factors that made crow beadwork less difficult than others because they combined unusual combinations of designs and techniques to their beadwork. This conclude how abstract their beadwork is, it showed how they did their own craftsmanship. The Crow people were recognized for their beadwork. In the colourfulness in their dresses and riding gear. The introduction of glass beads was introduced in the 18th century, it was much simpler to work with beads than say quillwork.
In reviewing the history of Crow Indian beadwork, it is important to recognize that beadwork has three major decorating articles of work it was media-painting, porcupine quillwork and bead embroidery which existed among the Francois Larocque’s in 1805. In 1805, was the first period where it was just used as a craft. Craft was a concept the Crow people used because it was what they have been taught by their own ancestors. The second period was the importance of the beadwork. This exemplified how important the beadwork was used for different uses for the Crow People.
Around the 1800’s they began to sew small glass beads to their clothing because it was appealing to themselves and others. This kind of beading was picked up in the West which started the trade system. There was two non-indigenous men by the names of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark who came into the trade system and help get the beads traded. However, there were Indigenous people who controlled their own system of trading. Supplies were scares, but they always managed to have enough of their beads and were able to use their supplies. They would usually use it to make belts and small garments to make sure that supplies would last but at the same time be able to still do what they love to do.
As the bead making was popular among the Crow women trading posts made a steady supply of beads. Among the beads they had beads ranging from Venician glass. Blowers were beginning identify with tiny products called seed beads, which they created in dozens of colours. These changes helped the craftswomen who lived in the 19th century to enhance their beading art into making large supply of beads. Within a decade the Blackfeet, Crow, Sioux Cheyenne, and Kiowa, as well of their neighbouring plateau and Great Basin Groups were involving art work and styles and covering their horse gear, dresses, vests, bags, cradle tops, and a whole display of other extraordinary items of beads. Beading developed as an art form for the Crow people, just as it did for other Plains people. In the 19th century they had the means to travel and display their art work to others in their own territory. In doing so they were able to develop their products from Europe and the eastern United States but it did not affect them later on when the settlers came in.
Their technique still remains the same since the early 19th century, they have been creative and the Crow woman have been taken so much pride in their creative work. Their originality has been straight across beading, which is used in their floral work and most indigenous designs. Instead of beading each part separately, the beader creates her own designs and background at the same time, stretching a long, and unbroken strand to full width of her design field, changing each bead design.
According to William C Orchard there were only two ways of sewing beads to broad surfaces of skin or cloth in use among the Plain Indians. The reason they had two ways because they didn’t need it to make it difficult for each person to use their technique. Crow woman used three techniques in beading, which were overlaid or spot stitch. This technique required the beads were threaded on sinew or thread and laid in the deserved position, following the lines of pattern. Then with the second thread the row of beads we’re sewn securely in place by taking an overlaid stitch between every two or three beads. This held the beadwork close to the base material and gave a flat effect to the finished product. The Blackfoot also used this technique as well.
The Second was the lazy stitch where the beads were applied in a series of short and parrell rows, a single thread passing through the basic material at the ends of these rows only. This produced a ridged effect the beads near the centre of the rows tending to rise above the surfaces of the material, while those at the end were held tight to it. This type of technique was widely used by the upper Missouri in applying the large beads in common use among these Indian in pre-reservation days.
The third technique in was common used among Crow beaders in the pre-reservation period. This was known as the Crow stitch it was widely used among the tribe on the majority of the crow beading objects in the crow beading executed in this technique the beads were nearly as flat as do applied in the over laid stitch. However, it needed to be done correctly or the beaded rows ended up looking rather sloppy. To the crow people that was unacceptable.
The Crow people were known for their intercut beadwork. They based their lives around every aspect of their lives with these beads, giving them special attention. Their clothing, horses, cradles, and ceremonial gear was used in decorated in beadwork. The work was done by woman, while the men went out to hunt for these items so the woman can decorate them with their beads. The women were considered experts when it came to their beading materials. The Crow people are innovative who are credited with developing their own styles of stitch work for their beads. This stitch today which is known as “Crow Stitch”. Their beadwork were geometric shapes were primarily used with triangles, diamonds, and hour glass structure being most prevalent. They used a wide range of colours, but blues and various shades of pink were most dominantly used. It was used this way because they wanted these beads to stand out more than other beads. They had a structure outline on what they wanted to be done, by doing so this would allow for a certain shape or colour to stand out.
The colours chosen were not just merely used to be beautifully pleasing, but rather had a deeper representational meaning. Pinks represented the various shades of the rising sun with yellow being the east the origin of the sun’s arrival. Blues are represented the sky, and red represented the setting sun or the west. Green symbolized earth, black the slaying of the enemy and white represented clouds, rain or sleet. The Crow people would give respect to the land and sky because it symbolized references found in various colours and shapes found in ornamental gear and event clothing. All the colours have meaning to something, but it would be up to the creator to make that piece bring meaning to their work.
Some of the clothing that the Crow people decorate with beads which included robes, pants, shirts, moccasin’s and various forms of celebratory and ceremonial gear. They do this to have connection to the land, from which they are apart, the various shapes and colors reflected ones standing and achievements. One example would be if a someone would go to war, and they killed someone. They would be honoured with black face. The black colour would be immerged into their clothing of that man who made the killing. I believe this made the man who did the killing stand out more from others because it was something to be proud of. Dressing the individual with beads represented their trueness to their culture.
Crow marker traits were regular in use as well as the Lakota and Cheyenne artist have been emerging from its own ethnicity of individuals. Many aspects of Crow culture
Crow beading art work was important to the Crow people and their cultural values. It was part of their identity and they have taken great pride in their art work. Today you can see it continues to see them on garments. Most of them enjoy looking at the beadwork and at special gatherings many Crow people spend hours looking and admiring other beadwork. It’s important to take what you make and take pride in what you do, shows people that this work isn’t easy, takes skill and many hours or years of practice. As I mentioned earlier in my essay it’s was important to their culture to keep moving forward with their beadwork. their culture.
Barbara Loeb. (1990). Crow Beadwork: The Resilience of Cultural Values. Montana: The Magazine of Western History, 40(4), 48-59. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.roxy.nipissingu.ca/stable/4519339