Carnegie Museum of Natural History invites visitors of all ages to experience the bravery, artistry, and extravagance of the Apsáalooke [ap-SAH-loo-gah] people of the Northern Plains—also known as the Crow. Opening February 4, 2023, Apsáalooke Women and Warriors is created and curated by The Field Museum and celebrates the Apsáalooke people’s daring feats in battle, unparalleled horsemanship, and innovative beadwork—all centered around and protected by women. Alongside historical war shields and regalia, contemporary Native American art highlights how this bravery and artistry is alive today.
Apsáalooke Women and Warriors explores the history, values, and beliefs of this Native American community known for their matriarchal society and honors the tradition of “counting coup,” or performing acts of bravery. Visitors will learn about Apsáalooke origins, cultural worldviews, and the powerful roles that both women and warriors hold in the community through a unique mix of traditional objects and contemporary Native American pieces from the perspective of Field Museum guest curator Nina Sanders.
“We are honored to share this compelling and vital exhibition with Pittsburgh,” said Gretchen Baker, the Daniel G. and Carole L. Kamin Director of Carnegie Museum of Natural History. “Curator Nina Sanders and numerous collaborators have woven together rich historical accounts with contemporary stories through stunning objects and visuals. This is a profound exhibition that highlights and invites connection to often hidden narratives—those of women and Indigenous Native American cultures.”
The exhibition features war shields that play important roles in Apsáalooke culture. Warriors make the war shields, while women are keepers of the shields. Visitors will have the opportunity to draw connections with the shield owners’ stories and their craftsmanship and imagery.
“The shields inspire us, they remind us that people have the ability to defy the laws of physics and change the course of nature and history. The shields represent superhuman potential and divine intervention” says Sanders, who is a descendant of one of the shields, meaning one of her ancestors made the shield. “The shields were used in and out of battle—every part of the shield manifests the needed supernatural aid required for the warrior to succeed and survive in battle. For example, you will see one with a hawk squirrel because the man might have needed the strength to move quickly through the forest, depending on their role in battle.”
Along with the shields, the exhibition also displays horse regalia, a nine-foot-tall modern tipi, and over 20 works of contemporary art, including paintings, photography, unique beadwork, and high-end fashion.
Apsáalooke Women and Warriors also highlights Apsáalooke gender roles and offers visitors a glimpse into an egalitarian society. The three genders include bía (woman), bachee(í) (man), and batee (two-spirited). Apsáalooke women are the keepers and influencers of the Apsáalooke way of life. Women, as well as men, were allowed to choose their partners. Men are responsible for protecting the women so that they carry on as life-givers, culture keepers, and foundations of the family and community. Sanders further explains, “In the community, people who identify as LGBTQ are considered two-spirited, imbued with the qualities and characteristics of all genders. We have many stories about exceptional batee people who counted coup or made beautiful works of art.”
Apsáalooke Women and Warriors is jointly organized by the Field Museum and the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society at the University of Chicago.
The exhibition is free with museum admission and runs until May 29, 2023. General museum admission costs $25 for adults, $20 for adults 65 and older, $15 for children aged 3-18 or students with valid student IDs, and $12 after 3 p.m. on weekdays. Admission is free for members and children aged 2 and younger. More information is available at CarnegieMNH.org.