hickory, carved in the form of a water monster; 12 brass tacks articulate the figure's spine; hide lashings with red wool; remnants of red and blue pigment, length of handle 14 in., overall length 34 in.
fourth quarter 19th century
There are many more accounts of water monsters in the folk literature of the Plains Indians than there are attempts in the graphic art of these tribes to picture these fearful creatures, But water monsters have been a persistent if not common subject in Plains Indian art over a period of at least two centuries. These attempts to pictures the physical forms of the imaginary creatures reveal that Indians of different tribes envisioned water monsters in different ways - some as four-legged animals, as did the Sioux; others as fish and still others as hide snakes. Even so, nearly all of the water monsters pictured by Indian artists had horns. A few of the pictures also illustrate the hostility between water monsters and the sky-dwelling thunderbirds.
The ethnologist James Mooney... had the Kiowa artist Silverhorn paint his conception of "the gods and mystic creations of the Kiowa"... Among the supernaturals pictures, Silverhorn included two versions of "Zemogauni, a great horned fish, supposed to frequent dark and deep caverns, where it has sometimes been seen for brief moments. According to some accounts it sometimes seizes and kills and unlucky swimmer and wears his scalp upon its horns" (Ewers 1981: 39-45).
Ewers, John C. "Water Monsters in Plains Indian Art." American Indian Art Magazine. Autumn 1981: 39-45.
Tim Kornwolf, Michigan
James Scoville, Illinois
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