Michigan Quilt Project
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North American Indian and Native Hawaiian Quilt Collection


Four Block Floral Appliqué Quilt
Unknown Chippewa Woman
c1915
Cotton
52" x 72”
MSUM 2005:25.1
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong, all rights reseved by the Michigan State University Museum

Native quilters have long made quilts which function in ways both similar to other cultural groups as well as in ways that have specific tribal or pan-Indian meanings.

Production techniques (patchwork, appliqué, quilting, tied work), material preparation (batting, recycling cloth), patchwork patterns, quilting designs, and quilt names were shared among Native and non-Native quiltmakers. Yet color, fabric, patterns, construction techniques, materials, and names of quilts made by Native artists often are tied to Native or tribal identity. In this quilt, the predominate colors of red, black, yellow, and white reflect the Native use of those colors to represent the four directions, four elements, or four races of man.

The first Native American quilt acquired by the Michigan State University Museum was one documented in a Michigan Quilt Project Discovery Day in 1985. Additional research by museum staff on Ojibway, Odawa, and Potawatomi quilting resulted in the collection of narratives, photographs, and quilts documenting the long-time engagement in quilting by many Native women in the region.

Subsequent research by MSU Museum staff on Native American quilting across the United States has resulted in the landmark exhibition "To Honor and Comfort: Native Quilting Traditions" (produced in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian) that toured to major museums across the nation, a smaller version of the exhibit that continues to tour to tribal or Native-focused museums, a publication, and an extraordinary collection of well-documented quilts and related materials at MSU.

By Marsha MacDowell




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