Post Lot Text
The Cheyenne, as possibly other tribes, recognize the semi-cardinal directions as being of primary spiritual and ceremonial import. This is determined by the fact that at their respective latitude the Sun, the primary life-giver, is seen to rise in the Southeast. It follows a southwesterly, then northwesterly path until it sets at the end of each day. The orientation of the avian figures at semi-cardinal points on this shield illustrates this observation. While, further appreciation of the iconography remains largely hidden and speculative, their distinctive zigzag bodies seem to lend them a supernatural quality. It is safe to say that the shield's visual metaphors are likely rooted in divine inspiration revealed during the owner's vision quest.
Worth noting is the area of the buffalo bull's hide selected for this shield--the groin. A popular belief holds that shields were cut from the hump area. This is not born out by many the shields in existence. In fact, this shield, like a number of others known to the author (including several Cheyenne examples), retains the bull's penile opening just below the center. Such usage further underscores that spiritual or medicine aspects come into play. By employing this portion of the hide, the warrior significantly increased his shield's power--the bull's tremendous strength and virility being ever present.
Benson L. Lanford November 11, 2005