American Indian Style Show – Part I

By Roseanne McKee

Republished with permission of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise

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Princess dress worn for tribal princess competitions. Margaret Bird is behind the model narrating the style show.

“There’s no museum in the world that has all the Indian clothes. I have 50. The collection is stored in Tulsa and is insured,” said Osage elder Margaret Bird as she prepared her models for a style show at the Community Center in Pawhuska for 20 Tulsa tourists.

“I’ve been working on these since I was a fifth-grader. … I used to dance. I always hung around the elderly people and they would tell me the real deal. … You don’t just do things about traditions without asking.”

As an adult Bird went to the elders of each tribe and asked for detailed information about their regalia and for permission to reconstruct and show them.
“I’ve had only one tribe that said I couldn’t show their clothes. They made me a dress, but I don’t ever show it.

At this style show 13 models wore tribal regalia as Bird narrated and answered questions.

Several male and female models wore Osage regalia and one wore a traditional Osage wedding coat. Additional details will be in next week’s column.

After the style show, the models were transported to Indian Camp for an Osage lunch of fry bread, corn soup, chicken and noodles.

In an interview at Wakon Iron, the community center building in Pawhuska Indian Camp, Bird said, “I really want to stress that I don’t think people should get things out of a book. They should ask permission.

Bird’s accuracy has given her credibility with the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

“The Smithsonian came to Caney, Kan., at my home and come to me to make Delaware clothes and they have them there [at the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution].”

Although she is not Delaware because of her expertise, Bird was asked by the Delaware Tribe, also called Lenape, living in Canada to teach them how to construct their regalia.

There are three groups of Delaware, Bird said, concentrated in Anadarko, Bartlesville and Canada, Bird said.

“They’d been dressing like other tribes from up there, and they were Lenape. But, they didn’t know how to dress. So, they commissioned me to go up there to show them how to do the men’s clothes and the women’s clothes,” Bird said.
“I drove up there with my sewing machine and my ribbons and I taught them. … That whole gymnasium was full of Indians — men and women. Well, they all wanted to learn to sew their Indian clothes. We showed them a film of the Delaware down here. Then we got our materials. … We worked two to three weeks every evening. … People brought their sewing machines. We stayed on a bed and breakfast on the res. We taught them everything they needed to know.”

A year later the Delaware Chief invited her to attend their dances in Canada.
“I was amazed at that powwow. All those people had their Native clothes on. I was just shocked. I cried. In two years they wanted it so bad and I asked ‘how many years have you been dressing like these other tribes,’ and they said, ‘we didn’t know.’”

“I had a good mentor, Nora Thompson Dean. Her Indian name was Touching Leaf,” Bird said.

Upon retirement “I’d like to get someone younger to hand this off to,” she said.
To learn more about having a style show hosted by Margaret Bird, contact Danette Daniels, owner of The Water Bird Gallery in Pawhuska at 918-287-9129.

Part II and III of the style show will follow on Sundays Jan. 13 and 20.

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