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Quill Decorated Hymnbook

Date: 1880-1900


Description: This Episcopal hymnal is written entirely in the Siouan language, the language family of the Sioux Native Americans with many different branches and variations. The Sioux are often divided up based upon which variant of this larger language family that they speak. On the cover of this hymnal is the word olowan, which in Ogala, or the language of one of the many subdivisions of the Lakota people, means “sing.” Hymnals like this were probably made and printed as Christian missionaries tried to spread the Christian religion to indigenous tribes. It may have been used during religious services of the Native American Church, which practices a combination of Christian and traditional tribal beliefs.


The hymnal cover is rawhide and decorated with elaborate quillwork. Quillwork is a decorative art form that is completely native to North America, and uses the quills of bird feathers or the New World Porcupine, also native to the Americas. Quills take to dye very readily and are usually dipped in dye and flattened by a stone or bone tool, though one’s own teeth can also be used. Quills are then worked into the hide and bound with sinew or thread.


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On display

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