Pamela Hearne Jardine, former Assistant Director of the University Museum, talked about her research into the conditions and cultural change on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana in the 1890's. She described how the Blackfeet progressed from an aggressive tribe that controlled trade over a large area of the American West to a demoralized yet fiercely independent group who had to depend on the U.S. government, as the Government's ill-conceived policies tried unsuccessfully to force the nomadic Blackfeet to become farmers.
She illustrated her talk with slides of Charles Stephens' exquisite drawings of Blackfeet artifacts and ceremonies and of his photographs that show the deplorable conditions of the Blackfeet reservation in 1891. Stephens, a Philadelphia artist and illustrator, lived among the Blackfeet for three months in 1891. While most museum-selected ethnographic collections of the late 19th century were made unsystematically, the well-documented collection of Blackfeet material culture in the Stephens Collection is a happy exception. Although Stephens was not trained as an anthropologist, he photographed scenes of daily life, kept a journal filled with sketches of the Indians, recorded ceremonies such as the Sun Dance, and made detailed drawings of artifacts and their use.
Pamela Hearne Jardine retired from the University of Pennsylvania Museum in 1998 after working there or 16 years. She was Keeper of the American Indian Collections from 1982 until 1989, then coordinator of Museum Services, then as Assistant Director of the Museum. In these administrative positions she was responsible for exhibit production and maintenance of the collections. She organized many exhibits, including Ancient Nubia, Egypt's Rival in Africa; Treasures form the Royal Tombs of Ur; and Pomo Indian Basket Weavers, Their Baskets and the Art Market. She also served as curator or co-curator for several exhibits, including The Silent Language of Guatemalan Textiles and River of Gold: Pre-Columbian Treasures from Sitio Conte.
Since retirement, she has been conducting research for her Ph.D. on
the early Blackfeet Indian reservation years using Blackfeet Indian artifacts
and related archival material from the Museum's Charles H Stephens Collection.
More than 100 Blackfeet objects and a wealth of supporting archival material
are part of a much larger collection assembled by Philadelphia artist Charles
H. Stephens between 1863 and 1930. For three months in 1891 he collected
artifacts on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana. During this period,he
photographed scenes of daily life, kept a journal filled with sketches
of the Indians, recorded ceremonies such as the Sun Dance, and made detailed
drawings of artifacts and their use. When he arrived at the Reservation
in 1891, Stephens encountered a totally demoralized people who had remained
fiercely independent and isolated until the great bison herds were depleted
in the early 1880s. Having lost their subsistence base and faced
starvation, the Blackfeet gave up their nomadic way of life and became totally dependent upon the US government.
This collection provides researchers with a rare opportunity to reconstruct the early reservation years of the Blackfeet, a period of dramatic cultural change about which little is known.
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