thread and sinew-sewn; vamps with an elk dancer holding a hoop and forked stick, length 11 in.
third quarter 19th century
Elk Dreamer Society
The male elk was considered by the Sioux to have special powers over love and courtship. Elk Cult members observed the way in which a bull elk would fight to the death to protect its mate, and it was believed that such powers of "elk medicine" were transferred to men who dreamt of this animal. Because of his powers over affairs of the heart, an Elk Dreamer was thought to be instrumental in matchmaking and the settling of marital disputes…
Clark Wissler describes that any man who dreamed of an elk or the Elk Cult itself was required to perform a special ceremony and give a feast for fellow society members. For this purpose, a special tipi was duly set up, and Elk Cult members donned distinctive trapezoidal masks made of elk hide with trimmed branches wrapped in otter fur to represent the velvet-covered antlers of the immature elk. Their bodies were painted in yellow, their hands and feet in black, with black paint on their breast and back…
Each of the Elk Cult dancers carried an elk fur-covered wooden hoop decorated with an "elk herb" (wild bergamot), said to be favored by wild elk, and popular with young Sioux men for its fragrant smell. At its center is a mirror, held in position by crossed cords, which is understood to represent the elk's heart. These hoops were believed to have magical powers and were regarded by their owners as sacred…
As part of Oglala Elk Cult ceremonial, members prepare a special love medicine charm known as "woman charmer medicine" or Win C'uwa.
Two women of good virtue… are then invited to lead the dancers into the camp, their hair worn loose, wearing their finest dresses and each carrying a sacred medicine pipe and a forked stick. They are followed by the Elk Cult members, imitating the actions of the elk in accordance with their dream and carrying their ceremonial hoops and mirrors which project their power and "catch the eye of a girl and bring back her heart". (Green, Richard. “I Dreamed of the Elk”: Iron Tail’s Muslin Dance Shield” in Whispering Wind, March 1, 2009)
According to Chief R. Deerfoot's obituary (1871-1959), he was a "noted evangelist" who claims Cherokee descent, was a Major during World War I, and was "said to have been the first Indian to pilot an airplane for the government." In addition to his military service, he "devoted his life to evangelical work all over the world." Despite his supposed military and evangelical notoriety, recorded in an article in The Tennessean, dated Feb. 19, 1948, Deerfoot was "placed under a suspended six year sentence for practicing medicine without a license in Rossville, Georgia" and "promised to vanish from the Georgia scene." He is buried in the Arlington Memorial Gardens, Cincinnati, Ohio.
Provenance:From an Estate in Sinking Springs, Ohio; Collected by "Chief" R. Deerfoot (1871-1959)
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