Four Block Floral Appliqué
Unknown Chippewa Woman
52" x 72”
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong, all rights reseved by the Michigan
State University Museum
Native quilters have long made quilts which function in ways both similar
to other cultural groups as well as in ways that have specific tribal
or pan-Indian meanings.
Production techniques (patchwork, appliqué, quilting, tied work),
material preparation (batting, recycling cloth), patchwork patterns, quilting
designs, and quilt names were shared among Native and non-Native quiltmakers.
Yet color, fabric, patterns, construction techniques, materials, and names
of quilts made by Native artists often are tied to Native or tribal identity.
In this quilt, the predominate colors of red, black, yellow, and white
reflect the Native use of those colors to represent the four directions,
four elements, or four races of man.
The first Native American quilt acquired by the Michigan State University
Museum was one documented in a Michigan Quilt Project Discovery Day in
1985. Additional research by museum staff on Ojibway, Odawa, and Potawatomi
quilting resulted in the collection of narratives, photographs, and quilts
documenting the long-time engagement in quilting by many Native women
in the region.
Subsequent research by MSU Museum staff on Native American quilting across
the United States has resulted in the landmark exhibition "To
Honor and Comfort: Native Quilting Traditions" (produced in partnership
with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American
Indian) that toured to major museums across the nation, a smaller version
of the exhibit that continues to tour to tribal or Native-focused museums,
a publication, and an extraordinary collection of well-documented quilts
and related materials at MSU.
By Marsha MacDowell