Vest donated to Dearborn Goodwill is Blackfoot tribe treasure

Image courtesy of the Burke Museum

Image courtesy of the Burke Museum

Sometimes, you don’t know what you’ve got stored in your attic. In 2006, a trunk donated to the Dearborn Goodwill included a beaded vest that was likely created by the Blackfoot tribe in the early 1900s.

Goodwill took a half decade trying to figure out what to do with the vest, valued at around $5,000, before donating it to the Burke Museum recently.

Goodwill released this press release about the vest:

Seattle Goodwill recently donated a beaded Native American vest to the Burke Museum to be part of their permanent collection.

“Seattle Goodwill realized the historical value of this vest and thought it would be most beneficial to the community to donate it to the Burke,” said Catherine McConnell, Vice President of Development & Communications for Seattle Goodwill.  “We are able to support our free job training and education programs with the generous donations from the community which we value very much, but when we see an item of such cultural significance it should be shared with an organization that can preserve it for the community.”

A heavily beaded Native American man’s vest was found among items in a trunk donated to Goodwill in 2006.  A local appraisal indicated that the beaded vest on canvas is thread sewn and most likely belonged to the Blackfoot tribe around the period of 1900-1920. It may have been made for the tourist trade and sold at railway stations.

Dr. Robin Wright of Burke Museum said the vest “would become part of the permanent collection and photos of it would be accessible through the Burke’s on-line catalog, in addition to being available to researchers and Native artists who are studying Northern Plains. This is an opportune time for us to expand this collection.”

Those who have objects they’d like to learn more about can bring them to the Burke Museum’s upcoming Artifact ID Day. On Saturday, February 9, 1-3:30pm, Dr. Wright and other experts will be on-hand to help you learn more about what you collect. See for details.

4 thoughts on “Vest donated to Dearborn Goodwill is Blackfoot tribe treasure

  1. Is the Burke Museum a Blackfoot Tribe museum? If yes, great. If not, why did Goodwill donate the vest to a non-Blackfoot Tribe entity? I believe that the Blackfoot Tribe, (God bless them), could have better taken care of the vest as a cherished memento of their heritage.

    • I am sure that if there is a tribe that can identify this as their product, the Burke will work with them. But remember this is tourist art, sold on the open market just like the miniature totem poles we are familiar with. This is not something that was taken by force like some of the objects that came to this burg, as well as Boston, NY, Chicago,et al. So lighten up. I mean, should all the Chagall paintings be reurned to France?

      • Interesting. Last time I went to a pow wow, I was interviewed by the maker of a heart shaped sweet grass basket I wanted to buy via her grandson interpreting. I just collect heart shaped boxes and loved her art. She was on the watch for ‘tourist traders’ native and white who would disrespect her art.