Quillwork is a skill that has a long history that dates back over thousands of years. Either living near porcupines or through trade networks; many Native communities utilize quills in various forms. The colors originally used came from natural dyes and after ~1880 aniline dyes came into use. The images below are some images from the Science Museum of Minnesota’s accessioned collections.


Catalogue #A79:4:155 – Cultural Association: Plains Indians. This shirt dates back to before 1850. It is made of hide with red, white, and blue porcupine quilled strips over the shoulders and on the sleeves.


Catalogue #A79:4:156 – Cultural Association: Ojibwa Indians. This shirt dates back to approx. 1850. It has blue and orange quill strips down the front and side of the shoulders and along the back.


Catalogue #A79:4:33A – Cultural Association: Eastern Dakota. The date for this piece is between 1860-1900. The moccasin above has quillwork on the top, tongue, and cuff. The top is dyed purple using lines and the U shapes on the other side. The tongue has four strips wrapped in quillwork of purple, red, and white. The cuff has strips wrapped in dyed read and blue quills.


Catalogue #A79:4:46 – Cultural Association: Dakota. This piece dates to between 1860-1900. The knife sheath has blue and white alternating quill strips on the main body. While quillwork in an orange and blue diamond pattern covered the top, all with a white quill background.


Catalogue #A79:4:102 – Cultural Association: Unknown. This piece is dated to approx. 1850. This armband is made of quillwork backed with blue and red trade cloth, decorated with white pony beads.


Catalogue #A79:4:116 – Cultural Association: Eastern Dakota. This hair tie dates to approx. 1835. This piece is made with quills that are dyed yellow and red and also use the natural white of the porcupine. Tin cone jinglers and early brass hawk bells as well as a piece of ribbon are also found on this hair tie.


Catalogue #A79:4:45 – Cultural Association: Eastern Dakota. Circa ~1850. This triangle strip of deerskin is decorated with porcupine quillwork in natural white, dyed black, red, and a blue green color. Tin cones are fastened along both edges.

Institute of Museum and Library Services

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services MA-30-13-0443

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