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American Indian Art and Culture in the Bishop Whipple Collection

American Indian Art and Culture in the Bishop Whipple Collection

Episcopalian missionary Henry Whipple moved to Minnesota in 1859, at a time when many European settlers were moving into the newly formed state. This influx of new arrivals resulted in great changes for the region's American Indian people—loss of homelands through treaties and attempts to extinguish cultural and religious practices.

Whipple dedicated his life to defending and supporting American Indian people. But like most reformers of his time, he mistakenly believed that Indians had to adopt European customs in order to survive. Although he had genuine respect for American Indians and their culture, he was nonetheless committed to converting them to his own Christian faith.

Bishop Whipple and his family collected hundreds of American Indian-made objects, some as gifts, others as purchases. The objects in the Bishop Whipple collection exemplify Whipple's interest in and influence on Indian culture.

American Indian objects in the Science Museum's Bishop Whipple collection come mainly from Minnesota's Dakota and Ojibwe nations, with selected pieces from tribes across North America. Originally they came to the museum on loan from Shattuck St. Mary's Schools in 1979. In 2009, with assistance from state of Minnesota Legacy funding and private donors, the museum embarked upon a five-year agreement with the school to purchase 191 objects we cared for the past 30 years, and to preserve them in perpetuity.

Selected American Indian Objects from the Bishop Whipple Collection

Shirt, About 1850

Shirt, About 1850
Wool, silk ribbon, glass buttons, glass seed beads, dyed bird quills, buffalo hide, and cotton
SMM A79:4:156

This shirt represents a merging of military, fur trade, and American Indian decorative sensibilities. The porcupine quilled shoulder strips recall the epaulettes on military uniforms. The shirt's embroidered front panel evokes the button closures often seen on shirts worn by traders and outdoorsmen.


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