Visiting with the Ancestors

The Blackfoot Shirts Project


7 March 2013 to 1 September 2013

Blackfoot shirt with painted war honours; 1893.67.1

What happens when museum objects go home for a visit? The Blackfoot shirts at Pitt Rivers Museum, collected in 1841, express Blackfoot culture and beliefs. In 2010, Museum staff took them home to Canada for a visit so that Blackfoot people could learn from them and strengthen cultural knowledge and identity. Blackfoot people were delighted to see these important heritage items and were inspired by them. The exhibition includes three of the shirts and quotes and photographs from the reunions with Blackfoot people.

Learn more about the shirts

flipbook1 WAR DEEDS -This shirt is painted with a personal war record, and has hairlocks of both human and horse hair. The hairlocks show that the shirt is a sacred object to Blackfoot people.
flipbook2 SHIRT WITH LAYERS OF PAINT - This shirt is decorated with hairlocks and layers of paint. The hairlocks indicate that the shirt is a sacred object to Blackfoot people.
flipbook3 SHIRT FOR FORMAL OCCASIONS - This shirt does not have hairlocks, so is not a sacred object for Blackfoot people. Its beautiful fringes and quillwork mark it as a shirt worn for formal occasions. Blackfoot ad- visors tell us that the use of so much hide just for fringes suggests that the shirt’s owner was from a family who had good hunters (to provide so many hides) and many adult women to tan the hides: a well-off family.