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Northern Plains, Lakota Sioux
Shirt, about 1873, tanned deer hide, pigments, glass beads, wool cloth.
Museum purchase 1937.68.136

Counting coup is the term Plains Natives use to refer to winning prestige in battle and to the retelling of those stories. Like much of their clothing a war shirt like this one would have been used to denote those honors and the status of its owner. The clothing told of battles won, captured horses and defeated enemies. This shirt would have been worn during ceremonies and possibly into battle. It is made of tanned deer hide and decorated with pigment and glass beads. The dark hand painted on the chest tells us that the wearer may have defeated a man in hand-to-hand combat. The red hand may indicate that his adversary was killed. While this may have been an honor, one of the most prestigious acts was to touch an enemy in combat without killing him and escape unharmed.




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