@Ziacat had asked me to share the earrings I got at the Autry Museum market a few weeks ago. They are actually quite different from the Southwest silver and stone jewelry that I’ve collected so far. These are a plains style earring with dentalium shell and real elk ivories, made by a Lakota artist that goes by Quill Bill. I thought they were pretty and it’s fun to branch out a little. Elk ivories, or elk teeth, are highly valued among many plains tribes. I always thought that “ivories” was just a name for them, but after buying these earrings I did some research and learned that they are vestigial tusks and are actual ivory.
My other recent earring purchase is also something new and different for me: beadwork. I’m in love with some of the modern Native beadwork I’m seeing these days. These earrings are by Standing Rock Lakota Sioux artist Charlene Holy Bear. I commissioned them from Charlene and am so pleased with them. Charlene is well known for her beaded Vans shoes, which are so awesome and I want a pair!
Those are both amazing! They’re so long, and they look great on you. And the beaded ones are just crazy cool. I struggle with earrings because my right ear lobe is too stretched out for anything with much weight, and I love long earrings. The beaded ones don’t look too heavy. What is the backing behind the beading? Next you’ll have to buy something with porcupine quills
That’s very interesting that they have elk teeth, and it makes sense about the ivory. A few years back we were in Wawa, Ontario (yes there is really a place called Wawa - Wawa means goose in Ojibwa and they have a GIANT goose statue which is the picture in my avatar), and the town tourist shop had some wild looking animal teeth for sale. They were beaver teeth. I had to buy some for my little grand nephews.
Edit: in the first picture the top pieces are shell and the bottom piece is the elk ivory, correct?
Thank you! And yes, you are right—the three tiers of the dentalium shell earrings are made from 5 dentalium shells each, and then the elk ivories hang below. Neither of them are actually heavy, but I think the dentalium shell earrings may actually be the lighter pair. The beaded earrings are backed with leather.
I’m familiar with the word Wawa for goose (though I had forgotten which language) because there is a popular convenience store chain near me called Wawa, and their logo is a goose. I think I also knew it was a town in Canada. When The Rolling Stones came to town, Mick must have googled what to talk about for our area, and made a joke about Wawa vs. Sheetz hoagies. It was hilariously lame and fell kind of flat.
Those beaver teeth are crazy!
I love the long earrings are they heavy? The look so pretty on, I’d love to have a pair.
Wawa-We must be “neighbours” I’m in Delaware.
Love them both, congrats. The dentalium and ivories are so striking, you’ll be giving Quannah Chasinghorse a run for her money.
Really pretty earrings I adore the long pair. I wear the same earrings everyday because I feel I have to dress up more to wear them but both of these can be worn dressed up or casual. What and amazing score, thanks so much for sharing these
Thanks! They’re actually not really heavy. And yes, we are neighbors!
(Wawa all the way over Sheetz)
I wondered if it was leather on the back of the beaded ones. I googled both artists, and they have such beautiful pieces. I saw Quill Bill has some porcupine quill earrings. Your shell pair reminds me of a waterfall. Thanks for sharing!
So I should wear this next time I visit the NE?
I didn’t know about the Wawa stores until a friend of ours from Philly saw my t-shirt. A few years ago I went back to Wawa, and was so excited to see the big giant goose again Weird thing is we hardly saw any Canada geese in Wawa (although they were all over the rest of Ontario), but we have oodles of them here. Someone joked that they are Canada’s biggest export. But I love them, they make me think of the north.
Here’s another pic to show you how truly GIANT this thing is. It was foggy, not forest fire smoke!
Canada’s biggest export, lol. Yes, if you wore that T shirt around here, people would 100% think you were supporting the convenience store chain. I think the font’s even the same.
I always wondered what your avatar was!
Now I know
I love Charlene’s bead work, but it gets sold so fast I’ve yet to be able to buy something!
These Holy Bear earrings tho…
I hope it’s okay if I share about my early exposure to Lakota jewelry. In the 1980s I was fortunate enough to meet and honor an acclaimed artist who received a national award for her preservation of porcupine quill and bead artistry, Alice New Holy Blue Legs. Still the coolest name I’ve ever heard, and I’ve long wondered if the Holy of her name connects to the Holy Bear folks. I had a medallion necklace and quill earrings by her for many, many years. Porcupine quill is actually pretty fragile, and after years they broke. I might have one of those earrings loitering around somewhere. The medallion was composed of flattened, dyed porcupine quill such that it resembled basketry in a way.
Thanks for sharing this! I grew up with porcupine quill baskets in the house, but they are Ojibwa. I don’t know as much about Sioux artwork, although I bought a beaded necklace at Badlands National park a couple years ago. But I have a friend who is Lakota Sioux and runs a children’s home near Winslow (her husband is Navajo), so I’m going to enjoy reading this article.
And yes porcupine quills are fragile. One of my little boxes has a several broken quills, but I’m half afraid to try to fix them
I’ve always wanted dentalium earrings, but i shy away from wearing super long ones. these are beautiful on you!!!
Thanks for sharing that story and link! I would love to see a picture of your medallion or earrings before they broke. It’s a shame they broke, but I can see the quills being fragile, especially as they might dry out over time.
@Ziacat would you mind sharing your beaded necklace?
It’s not very satisfying to only be able to talk about it, but I think the necklace (pendant plus handmade quill and bead chain) is long gone, sadly. My earrings had rainbow-colors small beads at the bottom. This medallion is just like what I had in terms of design and technique–my colors were a little different–and the website page from the state folklorist about Alice is really well done.
Here they are. I remembered that I have 2. However, I only know that the one with the deerskin tie is Sioux. That’s the one I got in '20 at the gift shop in Badlands NP. The tag with it says “handmade Sioux, Carla Bettelyoun.” I like to wear it with the tie on the side so it can be seen.
The other one is special to me. My dad bought it for me when I was pretty little, about 5 yrs old, and then he passed away in '81. I’m pretty sure he got it in western Ontario, probably at one of the pow wows we attended. I always assumed it’s Ojibwa. I have no recollection of him buying it; I just remember wearing it when I was little. I had forgotten about it until about 15 yrs ago my mom and I were going through some drawers, and there was a box that had the necklace in it. I still wear it occasionally, but I’m a little nervous about doing that, because it is 50+ yrs old now.
When I look closely at the sides of both of them, they appear to be stitched in almost the exact same way.