Art & Art History ETDs

Publication Date



At the time of European contact, the Native Americans of North America had a long-standing tradition of decorating their clothing and other objects of personal adornment. This activity extended beyond ornamentation to encompass significant cultural practices associated with their concepts of well-being and wealth. The coming of the white man to North America had immediate and far-reaching impact on the Indians that included their manner of dress as they incorporated trade goods such as glass beads and woven cloth into their clothing. The Delaware were regarded as the grandfathers or original people' by the Eastern Woodlands Indians. The story of the Delaware's forced migration across the United States and their tenacity to maintain a sense of cultural identity in the face of assimilation is important in understanding their eventual influence in an elaborate style of beadwork that came to be known as the Prairie style. This artistic form is recognizable by its vibrant color palette, large abstracted floral motifs, geometric patterns, and the rows of white beads that outline these designs. The Delaware have often been cited as leaders in the development and dissemination of the Prairie style which was eventually used by Native American beadworkers living on reservations in Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Iowa, and Wisconsin. The Prairie style was used to embellish a wide variety of clothing and other objects including bandolier bags, breechcloths, leggings, moccasins, coats, shirts, hair wrappers, medicine bags, and horse tack. While there are stylistic elements that make this form of beadwork recognizable, Native American women also took the common design elements and combined them with their own aesthetics to create variations of this important art form. In this paper, I argue that the influence of the Delaware in the perpetuation of this style can be linked to their status as the original people of the Eastern Woodlands tribes, their constant contact with other Native Americans during their forced migration, and their own desire to blend their aesthetics with trade goods to create elaborately beaded clothing that became a symbol of their Indianess.'



Document Type


Degree Name

Art History

Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Department of Art and Art History

First Committee Member (Chair)

Buick, Kirsten

Second Committee Member

Fry, Aaron


Native American Art, Delaware Indians, Beadwork, Clothing, Textiles, Indians, Indian Removal