Métis or Dakota artist
Headstall, about 1840
Leather, dyed porcupine quills, dyed horsehair, glass beads
17 ¼ x 22 in. (43.8 x 55.9 cm.)
Museum purchase 1937.68.142
A Prickly Material
Porcupine quills decorate this element from a horse’s bridle. Its maker boiled the tubular quills with plant material, minerals, or insects to dye them. She might hold the quills in her mouth to make them pliable and then flatten them between her teeth before working them into her designs. For the long strips here, she wove the quills on a loom stretched on the frame of a bow. For the circular medallions, she wrapped quills around thin leather cords and coiled them into circles. Dyed horse hair hangs from the side tassels.