Beaded Leather Thunderbird Necklace
Artwork by Jennie Blacksmith
JENNIE BLACKSMITH - DAKOTA SIOUX
I now own the beautiful Blacksmith neckpiece, a gift from Russell McManus. The following information about Jennie was provided by Russell and his siblings:
BEADED LEATHER THUNDERBIRD NECKLACE
Length 18 in. From top to bottom. Round Thunderbird Shield is 2 1/ 2 in.
The beautiful leather beaded Thunderbird Necklace in the picture was made by Jennie Blacksmith, a Dakota Sioux lady, whose husband helped defeat General George Armstrong Custer at the battle of Greasy Grass.
Although she was from the Dakota Sioux Nation, it is speculated that her mother was a Cree captured by the Sioux. And, that her father was a powerful Sioux Chieftain, and that she heard the stories of the defeat of General Custer at the Little Big Horn or Greasy Grass from a Sioux warrior returning from the battle.
She later married the warrior and they left Montana and moved to Canada. They settled North of Oak Lake Manitoba, later were moved to an Indian Reserve near Griswold. Her husband was Chief there at one time. I do not know how old she was when my sister met her in 1961, she had brought up many children and was taking care of grandchildren and great grandchildren at that time.
As a member of the Dakota Sioux she received oil royalties, which helped her support the dozens of orphans and abandoned children she took in to raise as her own, never turning any away. She supplemented her income by making beadwork leathers and beadwork articles rugs and willow laundry baskets etc. She taught this craft to her daughters both natural and adopted. A truly amazing lady.
Mrs. Blacksmith, by Ann Doherty
Her Anglicized name was Jennie Blacksmith and she was from the Dakota Sioux tribe, when I knew her she still owned oil rights down there.
She met her husband when he came to their camp on the way to Canada after the Custer incident. They settled North of Oak Lake Manitoba, later they were moved to an Indian Reserve near Griswald. Her husband was chief there at one time. I do not know how old she was when I met her in '61, she had brought up many children and was taking care of grandchildren and great grandchildren at that time.
I mostly bought rugs and willow laundry baskets from her as we could not afford the beadwork leathers at that time. She told me her Indian name but I did not write it down, but Iím sure some old timers would know. We used to talk over a cup of tea and a cookie but I was young then and did not realize the history she could have taught me. Mrs. Blacksmith and her children made their products entirely by hand.
Mrs. Blacksmith, by Maurice Paul McManus
Winter of the 1970s, Oak Lake/Souris, Manitoba.
Seen her with two large paper shopping bags full of home made beaded Indian clothing: winter moccasins, gauntlets, etc., all beautifully beaded. She would walk from house to house in 20F to 30F below zero selling her items. I noticed that people would only open their doors a crack and speak to her and/or buy an item. but no one that I seen invited her in from the cold when they bought something and that made me very angry..
When she came to the backdoor of my sisterís and brother in lawís place I let her in, took her coat, sat her down at the kitchen table, and served her tea and toast. The same as if she was my grandmother coming for a visit. She was very happy to take a little rest. Of course I bought some items from her, gauntlets, winter moccasins etc.
When I went back to the Army I never got to see Mrs. Blacksmith again. My sister said that whenever she met Mrs. Blacksmith she always asked about me.
When I got to my sisterís again some years later, my sister gave me a beaded vest from Mrs. Blacksmith who made it for a young man at a pow wow in either North or South Dakota, but the young man never showed up.
I sent a letter to Mrs. Blacksmith telling of my visit to the Big Horn country of Montana but I never heard from her as she had been sick and passed away around that time.
What I understood was that her mother was Cree and was captured by the Sioux. Her father was a Chief and that she heard the stories of the defeat of General Custer at the Little Big Horn or Greasy Grass.
She was known to take in orphans and abandoned children and raise them as her own, never turning any away.
She taught beadwork to her daughters who helped make items for sale.
Here was and elderly lady who in her 80's was still helping to provide for her children, demonstrating a big heart and a very strong constitution.
Staff Sgt. M.P. McManus (Retired)