NEW TOWN - Quillwork, tanning and decorating hides and fashioning them into dresses and moccasins, and beadwork are among the traditional arts of the Three Affiliated Tribes on the Fort Berthold Reservation.
Today, fewer people are artisans in the traditional arts of years ago.
"I think the thing that stands out is these are utilitarian art art you wear in clothing and moccasins," said Marilyn Hudson, administrator of the Three Tribes Museum west of New Town. She said that's what distinguishes native arts from other arts.
A buckskin shirt, men’s necklace, ritual spoon, dance rattle and eagle feather bonnet all are examples of traditional art. The items are shown at the Three Tribes Museum, west of New Town.
Many traditional art items of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara people are on display in the museum.
Quillwork is done with quills from birds and porcupines, Hudson said. She said porcupine quills are used the most for quillwork including decorations on garments, mainly men's shirts, and pipe bags.
Warbonnets are another old-style art using eagle feathers and other bird feathers, Hudson said. Some who made warbonnets used raven and hawk feathers.
Hudson said the middle art period included beadwork. "That is considered a traditional art when fur traders introduced them to the tribes," Hudson said.
"The Arikara actually made beads. They would actually take glass beads brought by the traders, melt them down and restyle them into beads into ornamentations for garments and any type of things to wear," Hudson said.
She said shells and elks teeth also were used a great deal as ornaments.
Today, she said many jewelry makers are using store-bought items for their work.
The Mandan people, in particular, made pottery, a very ancient art, she said. However, she said, all three tribes made pottery.
"If they do pottery now, it is with a wheel and kiln," she said.
Quilts were probably more in the middle era of the traditional art era, she said. Initially, buffalo robes were the early day "quilts."
"They went from buffalo robes to blankets, including Army blankets from the traders and that evolved into quilts. The missionaries and pioneer women showed them how to quilt," she said.
She said quilts today mainly are made with quilting machines, with the traditional designs and other artwork added to them.
The modern oil and acrylic painting came from hide painting, she said.
Parfleche was rawhide - not tanned but stiff, she said. She said the old-style painting on the parfleche was made from berries and roots, and later dyes.
Breastplates were made of the bones of animals and birds, she said.
"We have very little art left on the reservation. Nine to five jobs have taken over and people are more mobile now," Hudson said.
"All of these are a dying art because everything takes a lot of discipline and time. If they are doing it now, they are doing it more as a hobby," she said.