This shield probably belonged to Little Rock, a Cheyenne man who was killed at the Battle of the Washita in 1868. The power of the shield was evoked by its owner for spiritual and physical protection. The symbols and colors used on the shield present a complete picture of the spiritual world. The light circle at the edge is Earth, with peaks of mountains in the four directions; the crescent moon above and the group of seven circles representing the star cluster of the Pleiades are set against the blue sky, with four birds circling a large Thunderbird.
Artist Cheyenne, Native American
  • Shield
Date between 1860 and 1868
Medium buffalo hide, deerskin, eagle feathers, owl feathers, brass hawkbells, and pigment
Dimensions Overall: 1 1/4 × 19 1/4 inches (3.2 × 48.9 cm)
Credit Line Gift of Detroit Scientific Association
Accession Number 76.144
Department Africa, Oceania & Indigenous Americas
On View Native American S130, Level 1 (see map)
purportedly used by Chief Little Rock (died 27 November 1868 at the Battle of the Washita River, near Cheyenne, Oklahoma, USA);
1868, acquired by Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer (1839-1876) at the Battle of the Washita River;
26 May 1869, donated to the Detroit Audubon Club (Detroit, Michigan, USA);
ca. 1915, gift to the Detroit Scientific Association (which had a display on the second floor of the Detroit Museum of Art);
by 1918, left to the Detroit Museum of Art (Detroit, Michigan, USA) upon disbandment of the Detroit Scientific Association;
1976-present, accessioned by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
Maurer, E. M. The Native American Heritage. Exh. cat., the Art Institute of Chicago. Chicago, 1977, p. 170, no. 206 (ill.).

Bulletin of the DIA 56, no. 1 (1977): 43 (ill.).

Kan, M. and W. Wierzbowski. American Indian Art (Summer 1979): fig. 1, p. 56, 170 (ill.).

Kan, Michael. "Notes on an important Southern Cheyenne shield." Bulletin of the DIA 57, no. 3 (1979): 124-133 (ill.).

100 Masterworks from the Detroit Institute of Arts. New York, 1985, pp. 88-89 (ill.).

Penney, David W. and George C. Longfish. Native American Art. Southport, CT, 1994, p. 107.