Heritage Center item showcased at Smithsonian

posted on June 21, 2012

A prized historical artifact from the permanent collection of The Heritage Center is spending some time in Washington DC.

The hat, dating from 1880, belonged to Oglala Lakota chief Mila Haŋska Tȟašuŋke Iču, whose English name, American Horse, honors the fact that he once took a U.S. cavalry officer’s horse in battle. It was donated to The Heritage Center by Ralph and June West many years ago.

The item is on loan to the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) as part of their exhibition, “A Song for the Horse Nation”, which runs through January, 2013.

According to NMAI press releases, “A Song for the Horse Nation presents the epic story of the horse's influence on American Indian tribes, beginning with the return of horses to the Western Hemisphere by Christopher Columbus to the present day. The exhibition traces how horses changed the lives of Native people: from the way they traveled, hunted, and waged war to how they celebrated generosity, exhibited bravery and conducted ceremonies. It shows how horse trading among tribes was the conduit for the extensive spread of mustangs in the Plains and Plateau regions of the United States, as well as how horses became the inspiration for new artistic expressions and rich traditions that continue to this day.”

The critically acclaimed exhibition first opened at the NMAI's George Gustav Heye Center in New York in November, 2009. The Washington version doubles its exhibition space to 9,500 square feet and features 15 new objects, including the American Horse hat.

The exhibit is being curated by Emil Her Many Horses, an Oglala Lakota who works in the institution’s Office of Museum Research. Her Many Horses specializes in the central Plains

cultures and served as lead curator for the museum’s inaugural permanent exhibition, “Our Universes: Traditional Knowledge Shapes Our World.”

Before being loaned to the Smithsonian, American Horse’s hat was sent to professional conservators to be stabilized. The funding for this needed work was provided to The Heritage Center by a Dr. Scholl’s grant. The grant also allowed THC to build three large display cases in the main museum area.

For more information on the exhibition, “A Song for the Horse Nation,” click HERE.

To see a photo of the American Horse hat, click HERE.