Pictorial buffalo robe

  • About 1870
  • Buffalo (American bison) hide, paint, ink, and sinew
  • 86 × 102 3/8 in.

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College: Purchased through the Florence and Lansing Porter Moore 1937 Fund; 2009.13

visibilityLook & Discuss

When Sioux warriors achieved victory over their enemies, they recorded it on the largest surface possible, which was a buffalo robe. Once the hunters produced the skinned hide, the women cleaned and tanned it, rendering it into a soft, pliable material that could be used as a blanket or a robe.

Tradition dictated that a warrior who wanted to produce a record of his exploits on a buffalo robe had to have assistants to help him, as well as to confirm every scene. Sometimes these assistants even drew alternate versions of the action. The warrior would have worn the robe around his shoulders as he walked through camp. If someone asked him about the drawings, he could spread the hide out and tell tales of his acts of bravery in battle.

learn more

Watch A’aninin (Gros Ventre) scholar Joe Horse Capture describe this buffalo robe in detail on this video.

Northeast Woodlands: Histories & Identities