Preston E. Miller & Carolyn Corey

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All new items never before published. Same format as the previous 1997 book. Nearly 800 color photos present clothing & accessories, quill & beadwork, basketry, pottery & rugs as well as a new section on Improved Order of Red Men collectibles & world-wide beadwork traditions including Africa & Europe. 192 pp. $29.95*paper POSTAGE USA $5.00



The New Four Winds Guide to American Indian Artifacts


Authors: Preston E. Miller and Carolyn Corey

Book review by Richard Green

Paperback, 192 pages (2006)  $29.95

Schiffer Publishing Ltd, Atglen, Pennsylvania  ISBN 0-7643-2391-1

I always remember an old antique dealer friend of mine once telling me, “Never buy a book unless it helps pay your school fees!” In other words, make sure every book you add to your bookshelves earns its keep, either for its entertainment or educational value  - or of course both.

I recalled my friend’s words as I read through the latest book produced by husband-and-wife authors Preston Miller and Carolyn Corey, who run the Four Winds Indian Trading Post at St Ignatius, Montana. Located on the Flathead Reservation since 1969, they have been ideally placed to handle the widest variety of Indian-made material, both antique and contemporary. Illustrated with almost 800 color photographs of Indian material that has passed through their busy hands over recent years as a result of their annual auctions of Indian artifacts, this book certainly warrants a place on every Native American art collector’s bookshelves!

The Native American art market is massive, and growing, both in North America and further afield. Though clearly intended to appeal first and foremost to collectors and dealers, this visually impressive book has a much wider appeal. Divided into numerous themed sections, it covers a broad range of material  - from beaded clothing and accessories to bags and pouches, footwear, dolls, and even beaded whimsies made for the souvenir market. Attractively set out in catalogue format, it includes literally hundreds of objects to delight the eye of the reader, together with prices realized at Four Winds auctions over recent years. But this is much more than just a price guide...

The clothing section features beaded vests, women’s dresses, dance regalia, headgear, necklaces, belts, gloves, and over 50 pairs of moccasins of assorted types are illustrated. A definite highlight is a fine Nez Percé split horn headdress with ermine pendants attached to a trailer of red saved list trade cloth. Dating circa 1870-80, it was collected at Nespelem, Washington. The section on bags and pouches gives some idea of the wide range of styles produced across the North American continent, variously decorated with trade beads and even porcupine quills. These range from Plains tobacco bags and smaller buckskin pouches to Plateau flat bags, belt pouches and Northeastern purses made for commercial sale. There are further sections on native cradles, basketry, painted rawhide parfleche containers, musical instruments, Northeastern moosehair embroidery, and Southwest rugs and pottery, all visually very informative.

The bulk of the objects appear to have been photographed by the authors as they were accumulated for Four Winds’ annual auction sales. A percentage of them are pictured against a backdrop of the Four Winds Trading Post log cabin, or on the family picnic table. Nevertheless, the lack of formal studio style photography detracts little from the splendid array of fine quality pieces presented. There are a few notable omissions  - namely weaponry, smoking pipes, horsegear, and Southwest jewelry  - areas dealt with in earlier Four Winds publications. 

The captions accompanying each illustration are thoroughly researched and authoritative. Details of tribal attribution  and suggested datings appear accurate, and descriptions concise and informative. Carolyn Corey presents a section on beadwork traditions from other world cultures outside of North America, illustrating examples of beaded objects frequently misidentified as being of Native American manufacture. These include examples of 19th century English and European beaded purses with floral and figurative decoration, a Scottish star-shaped pincushion from Saffron Walden Museum, a Turkish prisoner-of-war snake, and a delightful array of West African (Yoruba) beadwork! This section, potentially very interesting, might perhaps have been expanded to include examples of Chinese loom-woven necklaces, lizards made by Turkish prisoners-of-war, and beadwork from Scandinavia, Gujerat, South Africa and Indonesia.

I noticed only a handful of oversights, all of a minor nature... The Northern Plains beaded dance set illustrated at the top of p.60, listed as a girl’s outfit, is actually that of a male dancer. The tobacco bag at top left of p.64 is dated as “c.1890-1900”, though with its background of opaque red Czech beads, probably dates some two or three decades later. The example at top-right of p.65, though cited as “Chippewa-Cree”, (presumably meaning either Chippewa or Cree), is clearly of Chippewa (Ojibwa) origin. A similar case involving a Chippewa beaded velvet cape occurs at the top of p.30. There are occasional inconsistencies in nomenclature for beadwork techniques  - “lazy stitch” and “lane-stitch” being used interchangeably, (see p.18, bottom right, and p.31 respectively). The tribal name Pend Oreille is mis-spelt Pend O’reille on p.9. A horsehide breastplate is termed a ‘horsehair breastplate’ on p.16. And the group of moosehair-embroidered birchbark cases illustrated on p.81, described as “cigar boxes”, are actually calling card cases, used to hold Victorian visiting cards.

Of particular personal interest, however, is an essay by Preston Miller on the subject of the “Improved Order of Redmen”, and the Iroquois style accoutrements worn by its non-Native members. Miller not only details the history of this idiosyncratic quasi-Masonic organization, but also includes a fascinating series of photographs of IORM members incongruously dressed in ornate beaded regalia. Also featured in this essay is an impressive collection of badges, ephemera and other IORM memorabilia. This intriguing subject is complemented by a final section devoted to images of white people dressed as Indians  - a rather uneasy concept that had its origins in our forefathers’ love of the dressing-up box, and further highlighting the romantic fascination Europeans and Euro-Americans have long had with Native American peoples.

There is a short glossary of specifically Native American beadwork terms, comprising details of bead types, sizes, techniques and colors. This would prove useful as a reference tool to dealers and collectors just starting out in their interest. A section on reproductions and artifakes might have been useful, particularly in view of Four Winds’ reputation of utmost integrity when including this genre of material in their auctions.

In most respects, however, this delightful new publication is a reliable reference tool for all those with an interest in Native American beadwork and other artifacts, and one that, without a doubt, will go on to pay the school fees many times over!

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