|Lone Star, Sioux maker, circa 1900-1925. IQSCM 2010.047.0001.|
By Kim Taylor
This star quilt isn’t actually a quilt and that is one of the most interesting things about it! It might appear as if it is an unfinished quilt top, but lo and behold – the edges are finished so that tells me that it was intended to be one layer of fabric with a giant appliqued patchwork star in the center.
I did research with the Sioux and Assiniboine star quilters in Montana during the 1990s and I never saw a quilt quite like this one. This quilt is one of the earliest surviving examples of a Native American star quilt. It was gifted to prominent photographer Frank Fiske sometime between 1900 and 1920 from someone on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota.
What makes this star quilt so interesting is that it was decorated like a buffalo robe with the beaded rosettes and the feathers. A similar star-like pattern of radiating diamonds was seen on painted buffalo robes on the Northern Plains known as the “Black War Bonnet” design which only warriors were allowed to use, like in this Bodmer painting.
The Fiske star quilt has blood smeared on the upper center part of the blanket and that really adds some intrigue. Maybe Frank Fiske received this star blanket as a warrior’s gift on his return from serving in WWI or maybe after some dangerous and daring feat. Mr. Fiske lived near or on the Standing Rock Reservation for most of his life and was married to a Sioux woman.