In 1889, the Reverend Aaron Baker Clark moved his family from New York State to the Rosebud Reservation in Dakota Territory. Thus, his sons grew up in close association with the Sichangu, or Brule ("Burned Thighs") band of Lakota, or Western Sioux. Two sons, David and John grew up speaking Lakota as well as English. As adults, both brothers went on to serve as missionaries in the Episcopal Church in Dakota Territory; David became an assistant to the bishop on the Rosebud Reservation. In 1918, David married Elizabeth Mann in New York, and they returned to South Dakota, where he was ordained Deacon in Rapid City. Soon after, he advanced to the priesthood. That same year, the couple moved to Fort Thompson (at the Lower Brule and Crow Creek Reservations on the Missouri River). From 1929 to 1942 David Clark was priest and pastor to all, as well as Dean of the Niobrara Deanery, responsible for visiting all the reservations in South Dakota. He took particular interest in working with the Lakota on preserving local oral history and in collecting objects of Lakota material culture.
Indian peoples often esteemed individual ecclesiastics and persons in the Indian Service with whom they associated. The people routinely presented them gifts of appreciation on special occasions, or in return for services such as presiding at baptisms and funerals, and providing counsel and assistance to families. David and his family were the recipients of numbers of such presents. The Clark family records further indicate that David actually purchased items for his collection outright. Two other collections were joined to the Clark collection at various points in time -- that of the Reverend H. Burt, who served on the Crow Creek Reservation, and that the Reverend Luke C. Walker, an Eastern Sioux, originally from Minnesota, in service on the Lower Brule Reservation. Thus, the Clark collection includes objects from several localities: the Rosebud, Lower Brule, Crow Creek Reservations, and possibly others as well.
A number of items from The Collection of Alice K. and David W. Clark, Jr. in this sale are particularly noteworthy. The Girl's Quilled Hide Bonnet (lot 152) bears three symbols inbued with meaning -- each constituting a tangible prayer or blessing for the wearer. The crosses are said to represent the Morning Star, as well as the cardinal directions. The concentric square with a smaller square at each corner represents the as yet untapped, boundless power and forces that the Great Spirit is understood to put in the universe, (Lame Deer 1978:103). The Quilled Hide Ball (lot 153) elaborated with a highly symbolic cross and circle motif on each side most likely figured either in the Lakota ritual game, "The Throwing of the Ball," or in the puberty ceremony for a girl coming of age, (Brown 1967:116 and 127). Of exceptional note is the unique Child's Quilled Hide Mite Box (lot 155) decorated with dentalia and hackle feathers. Mite boxes functioned as "safes" for coins intended as offerings for special causes.
The pair of Santee Sioux Beaded Hide and Cloth Dolls (lot 156) reveals the clothing styles of the Eastern Division of the Sioux. In contrast, the detailed clothing and accessories displayed in the Lakota Beaded Hide Female Doll (lot 157) -- her beaded dress, leggings and moccasins, knife case, strike-a-light pouch, earrings, breast plate, and concha belt -- together present in miniature a Lakota woman dressed to her finest. Moreover, the red stripes painted on her face indicate association with one of two major rites. Either the doll is represented as having been the subject of the Hunka Alowanpi, an exceptional ceremony that in part bestows life-long favor on the subject, or the White Buffalo Ceremony, part of the female puberty rites, (see Brown, 1967).
The Prairie Dog Pelt Tobacco Bag (lot 170) is constructed of two prairie dog skins, recalling the ancient custom of utilizing cased pelts for the object type. The Pair of Beaded and Quilled Hide Possible Bags (lot 186) is a classic example of containers used for storing clothing and personal belongings. The quilled red lines represent "The Red Road" -- the traditional Indian way of life.
The Wood Pipe Tamper (lot 193) with carved mountain sheep head and arcs of horn is a significant example of Plains Indian sculpture. In all probability the tamper related to the original owner's totem animal or his personal name. The bowl-like Tobacco Board (lot 195) fashioned from a "palm" of moose antler carefully thinned down, served as a pallet on which to slice the old-fashioned plug tobacco, and to mince the inner bark of red willow as flavoring for the pipe smoking mixture. The finials surmounting its outer margin can be read as human heads, but might not have been so intended by the maker.
Perhaps the most remarkable object of all is the Wood Effigy Feast Bowl (lot 196) carved with a bear's head peering into its hollow. This tray-like bowl is typical of the Dakota, and to a lesser extent the Yankton and Yanktonai bands (the Eastern and middle divisions of the Sioux, respectively). The bear possibly relates to the owner's name, totem animal, or clan affiliation. This object was gifted to the Reverend David W. Clark, as it poignantly recalls his Lakota name, Mato Catka, or Left-Handed Bear.
Benson L. Lanford
November 30, 2003