Image: Artist unidentified. Horse Mask. 1900. Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection, Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, NY

Stripes and Stars: Reclaiming Lakota Independence


By the late 1800s, the United States government had confined the Lakota people of North and South Dakota to reservations and had taken away their freedom to roam the plains, hunt buffalo, and practice their religion. Surprisingly, during this same period Lakota women began incorporating the American flag and patriotic iconography into traditional beadwork designs.

This exhibition explores the multifaceted meanings of the American flag through nine beaded artworks created by Lakota women in the early Reservation Period. While the American flag was a symbol of oppression for Native Americans, Lakota women subversively incorporated it into children’s clothing and other traditional items so that tribal members could participate in cultural activities that had been previously outlawed. It also served as a protective talisman for Lakota youth.

Curated by Darienne Turner, Assistant Curator of Indigenous Art of the Americas.

The exhibition is supported by the Estate of Margaret Hammond Cooke.