Stories of the Old West

Native American headdress new exhibit in ND Cowboy Hall of Fame’s Center

Eloise Ogden/MDN A Native American headdress is displayed in the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame’s Center of Western Heritage & Cultures: Native American, Ranching and Rodeo in Medora. The headdress is a new exhibit in the Center.

MEDORA – Garments with beaded designs, a tipi and other items comprise the Native American Gallery in the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame’s Center of Western Heritage & Cultures: Native American, Ranching and Rodeo in Medora.

The center brings in visitors from Minot, Williston, Medora area and many other communities as well as beyond North Dakota’s borders. “They’re from all over,” said Becky Scheef, executive assistant of the N.D. Cowboy Hall of Fame.

One of the newest exhibits this year in the Center’s Native American Gallery is a Native American headdress presented to Alfred Lutgen, an early day homesteader. Lutgen’s family donated the headdress to the N.D. Cowboy Hall of Fame so it can be preserved and displayed.

The story of the headdress goes back to the early days. According to information provided with the display, the government opened up homesteading near Isabel, S.D., on a strip of land between the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and the Cheyenne River Reservation in 1910. Henry and Margaret Lutgen filed a homestead claim there.

“The strip of land had been used by cattlemen on the west side of the reservations to drive their herds to the Missouri River market and was not needed any longer when the railroad reached western South Dakota. The Lutgen farm was along the route connecting both reservations and the Indians always stopped to water their horses at the Lutgen homestead when they passed through,” the information said.

Henry Lutgen got along well with the Indians and when he moved from South Dakota one of the chiefs presented him the headdress. Lutgen moved to a farm near LaMoure in North Dakota and after his death the headdress stayed with his family.

Artist Butch Thunder Hawk of Bismarck provided information about war bonnets for the exhibit including:

“War bonnets were made for high ranking leader/chief, and high ranking war society leaders. Showed the rank of individual in a warrior society. Most bonnets showed which warrior society a warrior belonged to. In Lakota Society there was an order of rank, only warriors of great honor and achievement earned the right to wear a war bonnet.”

The Native American Gallery has a number of other displays, including items from the collection of Ross Rolshoven of Grand Forks. A pictographic ceremony vest is among the items from Rolshoven’s collection.

The vest tells the story of a great Lakota (Sioux) fighter, a chief and diplomat in the 1880s timeframe. “There is much visual and anecdotal evidence to substantiate that this vest belonged to Sitting Bull of the Hunkpapa Lakota who led his people into Canada after the Battle of the Little Bighorn,” according to information at the Center. The most striking feature on the vest is the pictorial representations of four warriors on horseback.

“… this vest, other garments, tipis and buffalo robes all have stories to tell through their beaded and quilled designs. They identify families, clans, tribes, important events, persons and even cherished horses,” according to Center information.

The Center has numerous other exhibits and information on rodeo, early ranching and a fossil exhibit, along with this year’s and past year’s N.D. Cowboy Hall of Fame in the Hall of Honorees.

A North Dakota Rodeo Association display is new to the Center this year. Other rodeo displays in the Center including North Dakota Junior High Rodeo Division, Rodeo Royalty and N.D. High School Rodeo have been updated.

The Center at 250 Main Street in Medora is open summer hours seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Rick Thompson is executive director of the N.D. Cowboy Hall of Fame.