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Daily Art Moment: Santee Sioux Artist

“I loved these joyful, beaded shoes the moment I saw them on exhibit in our Native American art galleries. I was immediately drawn to the colorful beadwork that integrated the bright yellow of the shoe’s lining and contrasted so brightly against the soft beige of the shoe’s leather. The elegant floral contour beadwork can be seen from every direction as the wearer walked or stood. Who was the lucky lady who wore these beautiful and bold shoes? Did she bead them herself, or were they a gift from a relative? Were they shoes for dancing? The label description, ‘non-traditional Women’s Shoes,’ is really a misnomer. While it is likely the original shoes were commercially manufactured and acquired through trade or purchased in a trading post, they were transformed by the artist who beaded them into an Indigenized expression of pride and beauty. We do not question the traditional value of beadwork, despite the fact that the beads themselves were trade items manufactured in Europe. To me, these shoes are evidence of ingenuity, resilience, and skill.”

Kathleen Ash-Milby, Curator of Native American Art

A pair of colorfully beaded, low-heeled ankle-high boot style shoes, pointing towards the right, seen in a three-quarter view against a gray background. Beige leather with beaded floral decoration on the toe box and both inner and outer sides of the shoes depicting leaves, flowers and abstract shapes in shades of blues, dark and light greens, burgundy, lilac and yellow almost cover the shoes. Beige laces thread through metal eyelets at front, the bright yellow lining is visible the length of the throat of the shoes. A seam is across the instep, they have brown soles and wooden, stacked heel. The toes of the shoes lift slightly from the smooth surface on which they are resting.

Santee Sioux artist. Non-traditional Women’s Shoes, ca. 1900. Glass beads and silk on leather. The Elizabeth Cole Butler Collection, 2014.151.2a,b