December 2012 Artifact of the Month
Beaded Pad Saddle
Materials: moose hide, fabric, glass beads, thread, yarn, and unknown stuffing
This beaded pad saddle comes from the Cree Nation of the northern Great Plains region in the United States. The Cree are one of the major Algonquian-speaking North American tribes and reside mainly west of Lake Superior as well as in Canada. There are eight groups of Cree, including the Attikamekw, Swampy Cree, Montagnais, and Plains Cree. This saddle is specifically from the Plains Cree tribe and was made around the year 1880 A.D.
This piece displays the influence of Europeans in multiple ways. After the arrival of Europeans, glass seed beads and horses, among other things, were traded to the natives. The Cree are known for their artistic beadwork and such work is displayed proudly on our saddle. Each corner and adjoining rectangular tab is adorned with varying floral designs, all created with tiny glass seed beads. Multiple yarn tassels are also attached to each corner. These decorative elements are strategically placed so that they remain visible while the rider is seated on the saddle. Note the center tabs where a rope would have been threaded through holes in order to hold the saddle onto a horse. The Plains Cree were a nomadic people and horses proved to be very helpful in traveling and hunting.