Sioux painting on cloth

painting on cloth

Paintings from the 19th century Plains tribes serve as narratives of important historical events. This piece was made at Standing Rock Agency (now Reservation) in North Dakota. Painted on a large sheet of muslin, 19 male figures and 15 horses are complemented by an additional 35 horse heads in the lower left-hand corner. Each individual figure appears to float on the surface of the muslin, as there is no evidence of a horizon.

Menominee dream board


An intricate system of incised images on wooden boards such as this served as a visual record of an event. Dream or memory boards were typically an Ojibwe tradition, but tribes, including the Menominee, produced them as well. The figures on horseback, buildings, and geometric designs served as mnemonic devices for the owner of the board.

Mandan Shirt


In the late 1870s, U.S. Senator Daniel Voorhees was given a Mandan man's shirt by a member of an Indian delegation to Washington D.C. The shirt was later passed on to Professor John D. Mack of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, who sold it to the Milwaukee Public Museum in 1921. This elaborate tunic style garment consists of two buckskins sewn together. Four large extensions of fabric hang down from the central and most decorated portion, and extensive bead and quillwork adorn the shoulders of the garment.



This rare quiver, now attributed to the Nez Perce tribe, was originally thought to be either Shoshone or Arapaho. Made from otter skin, this cylindrical case is covered with geometric patterns of pigment. There is a bull's eye design on the bottom of the case.

Mathiak Collection


The Mathiak Collection of Freshwater Mussels of Wisconsin includes specimens from over 250 rivers and creeks in Wisconsin, provides information regarding the mussel population in Wisconsin over time, and gives rise to future research topics. The collection also features endangered species in the state of Wisconsin such as the Villosa iris, or Rainbow Shell mussel.

Lakota Girl's Dress


Children's clothing from North American Indian cultures, other than moccasins, is unusual to find in many museums. This little girl's dress is in exceptional condition and is among the earliest items to be cataloged in the Museum.

Winter Count

winter count

This large cotton cloth covered in drawings from the Rosebud Reservation in south-central South Dakota is known as a "winter count," and came to the Museum in the late 19th century. Sketched in pencil, the cloth is adorned with an array of figures and objects from Sioux culture including tipis, houses, animals, trees, and horses with riders. This object held much importance as the historical record of the tribe. Images representing special events would be sketched onto the count to aid the memory in keeping history alive.

Comanche Cougar Skin Quiver


As an incredibly ornate piece of hunting equipment, this quiver and arrow set that came to the Museum in 1900 is a stunning example of Comanche craftsmanship. The shafts of all the arrows are stained a different color and are adorned with feathers. The quiver itself is made from cougar fur and has a fringe of cougar skin pieces that hang from the bottom. White, yellow, red, and blue beads are woven in a geometric pattern on the shoulder strap and  the fringes.

Feather Cape

feather cape

This feather cape was bought at an auction in England by William Sturtevant in 1987 with funds from the Milwaukee Public Museum's Friends of the Museum. It is believed to date to the 1830s and was made as part of the Iroquois "whimsy" complex, possibly by the Ottawa or Huron. The cape's feathers come from male and female mallard, gadwell, peacock, goose, and pheasant. The cape is sewn together with feathers and the neck ties are made from yellow silk. It is thought that the cape was produced for sale specifically to Europeans, as it matches the European fashion requirements of that time.

Lacandon Collection

face bowl

The Lacandon are an indigenous Mayan-speaking group living in the Mexican state of Chiapas. Today, only 300-500 Lacandon remain. One of the few groups not fully colonized by the Spanish, the Lacandon retained their indigenous religion until recently. The Museum's collection includes 113 objects widely representative of the group's material culture. Peter Thornquist collected most of the items in 1979 while visiting the Lacandon village of Metzabok, Mexico. The collection is important since it reflects items before tourism encroached the area.