Cisco’s holds one of the most extensive and diverse collections of Native American Indian artifacts, art, and antiques offered anywhere in the world. The quality and quantity of our collection competes with the best of museums. Our inventory includes basketry, beadwork, pottery, pipes, clothing, totems and carvings, Navajo weavings, weapons and much more.
Navajo weavings are by far the most popular of Native American weavings and were originally woven for utilitarian purposes such as blankets, cloaks, dresses, and saddle blankets. The actual origin of weaving among the Navajo tribe is unknown, although it is suspected that it was learned from interaction with the Pueblo tribe in the period between 1400 and 1600. Toward the mid-19th century weaving began to flourish as trade between Navajo Indians and white settlers increased. The arrival of the railroad in the 1880’s led to further expansion of the market for Navajo weavings and led to the importation of dyed yarn such as that from Germantown, Pennsylvania.
Cisco’s has over 1000 historic weavings, making the collection one of the largest in the country. The collection includes single and double saddle blankets, Germantowns, floor rugs, pictorials, and blankets. Cisco’s was fortunate to acquire the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans estate collection of weavings with a few remaining available for sale.
Not only functional aspects of everyday life, baskets were also pieces of technical and aesthetic achievement which exhibit both richness and variety. Nearly every region and tribe across North America developed a unique style deriving from its own cultural heritage and utilizing materials native to the region in which the tribes resided. Utilitarian baskets were used for gathering and storing dry goods while tighter woven, more decorated baskets were generally reserved for religious ceremonies, trading, and selling.
Northeastern basketry is predominately composed of stitched birchbark and plaited woodsplint construction often adorned with dyed porcupine quillwork.
Pacific Northwest basketry is predominated by several types of basketry. Hats, rattle baskets, and round lidded baskets were commonly made. Stylized animals and marine scenes were painted or woven into many of the baskets from this region.
Southwest basketry incorporates many construction styles, but can be loosely grouped into four divisions, that of the Apache and Navajo (the southern Athabascans,) the Hokan peoples, the Puebloans, and the Uto-Aztecans.
Southeast basketry is best known for its colorful, finely woven plain and twill plaited cane basketry. Regardless of tribal provenience, Southeast basketry looks remarkably uniform at first glance, but is readily distinguishable from other culture areas by the use of glossy cane and abundant use of color.
In California, abalone and beads were often added to baskets as decorative adornments. The Pomo are probably best known for their many varieties of finely coiled and twined baskets. Their distinctive gift or presentation baskets often included colorful feathers woven into the basket and are highly prized.
Cisco’s collection consists of hundreds of baskets from all regions. Most baskets are pre-1920, but we do have a few exceptional newer pieces.
The earliest beads were carved from natural materials like shells, coral, ivory, bones turquoise and other stones. These beads took much effort to make and were highly prized decorative and ceremonial items. Glass beads arrived in North America with the first European explorers and traders and were quickly adopted and spread throughout the continent. Glass beads in blue, yellow, red, and white were brilliant colors that were difficult to obtain from natural materials. As the availability of glass beads increased, their cost decreased, and beads became more widely used. At first, glass beads supplemented those made from natural materials, but, in time, glass beads almost completely replaced those made from natural materials.
There are many different beading traditions, designs, and styles among Native American tribes and nations. Plains Indian beadwork is the best known, but there were many other kinds of beadwork traditions in North America: from the wampum belts of the Eastern Indians to the dentalium strands for the west coast Indians, and from the floral beadwork of the Northern Indians to the shell and turquoise heishi bead necklaces of the Southwest Indians.
Cisco's collection is extensive, including Eastern, Prairie, Plains and Plateau. Most pieces are between the 1880's and 1920's. We have some older pieces and some more current decorative pieces. Pieces include: moccasins, pipe bags, bandolier bags, whimsies, gauntlets, tipi bags, fetishes, horse pieces, and more.
Distinctive styles of dress identified the various tribes of North America which clad themselves with unique tribal clothes, headdresses, and ornamentation.
In most tribes, men wore breechcloths together and leather leggings. A cloak would be added when the seasons became colder, and various additional clothing would be added for either ceremonies or war. The Plains Indians most notably wore special buckskin war shirts decorated with ermine tails, hair, and intricate quillwork and beadwork.
Clothing for women consisted of skirts and leggings, though the length, design, and material of the skirt varied from tribe to tribe. In some cultures shirts were optional for women, while in others, tunics, mantles, or full length dresses were the norm.
Nearly all tribes had some form of moccasin or mukluk, with the styles and designs varying from tribe to tribe. Cloaks of animal hide or cloth were used for winter months. The most variable of all Native American clothing was the headgear or formal clothing, which were different in nearly every tribe and even different depending on an individual’s political status within a tribe.
Sioux, Cheyenne and Plateau capture most of the Cisco’s collection, but we do also often have war shirts and dresses from Apache, Kiona, Chippewa, Osage and others. Most pieces are from the last quarter of the 19th century and first quarter of the 20th centuries. We do have access to several older collections containing higher-end dresses, war shirts, and headgear. Note that most moccasins can be found in Cisco's beadwork section.
The term parfleche was a word coined by French trappers for the hard, rawhide containers used by the Plains Indians. The Plains and Plateau Indians had an abundant source of hides in the buffalo and elk they hunted, but as they were nomadic, they had little opportunity to tan the skins. In order to preserve the hides they had to be cleaned, removed of their hair, stretched and then dried. The process created a stiff, durable leather that was used for countless items including packets, bonnets, pouches, bonnet cases, knife sheaths, drums, and shields.
Pipe smoking took a ritual and often religious importance in many North American tribes. Long before the arrival of Europeans, tobacco was commonly traded between tribes and agreements were consecrated by through the smoking of calumets or “peace pipes.” Pipes of the Plains Indians were often constructed of a wooden stem joined with a carved stone bowl or pipestone, while other native pipe making traditions included one-piece stone and ceramic pipes of the Iroquois and Cherokee, and wood or antler pipes used by the Southwest Indians. Tomahawk pipes, metal pipe bowls affixed to the rear of hatchet heads, became popular in the post-Columbian period.
Cisco’s offers one of the most extensive Native American pipe collections in the country. Most are historic and originate from Wisconsin and west to Montana. Sizes range from six-inch “travel” pipes to over three-foot ceremonial pipes. Most of the heads are catlinite or pipestone, a few are also wood, antler, or stone. The Cisco’s collection also includes numerous pipes made for tourists during the last quarter of the 19th and first quarter of the 20th centuries. We recently acquired several pipes from the Sacajawea Museum, including one used by Looking Glass with a mirror given by Captain Clark, from the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Pottery pieces are some of the oldest surviving elements of Native American culture. Made from clay and pinched or spun, pottery making traditions developed very differently among various tribes. Traditionally, pottery would have had primary importance in storing agricultural products including maize and was closely related to localized peoples with farming traditions. In effect, pottery making was more common among tribes in more southern climates. Northern tribes often relied more heavily on hunting and gathering, a lifestyle which made fragile pottery a liability.
Pottery from the Southwest region includes the most famous of styles due to its colorful designs, figures, distinctive forms, and relative abundance in comparison to pottery from other regions. Pueblo and Zuni pottery are good examples of this old artistic style.
Cisco’s collection includes many historic and pre-historic pieces of Southwest pottery as well as a few pre-Columbian pieces from the Mississippi River Valley. The Pueblo tradition is represented in the store, with a focus on Maria Blackware from San Ildefonso.
Northwest Coast Indians were the most prominent carvers among North American tribes and are to credit for beautiful totem poles, wooden boxes, masks, and speaking sticks. Totem poles are an ancient tradition which depict familiar legends, clan lineages, or notable events. Typically carved from red cedar and exposed to the rainforest climate of the Northwest, few examples exist from prior to 1850. With the introduction of steel and European wood cutting tools in the early 19th century totems grew larger and more abundant as a means of cultural expression. Wooden boxes and masks were often carved for ceremonial purposes and decorated with iconic designs of the Northwest Coast tribes.
Cisco’s offers and extensive collection of Northwest totems from the Washington Coast, Alaska, and Canada, from small shelf totems to 12 foot tall totems. These are Native American carved and like most pieces in the store, last quarter 19th century to first quarter 20th century, with a few newer and a few older. Carvings also include Northwest Coast masks, speaking sticks, boxes and fetishes. Prairie and Plains carvings include canes, speaking sticks and flag markers.
Weapons were used by Native Americans to hunt game and to battle with other tribes and white settlers. Typical weapons include clubs, hatchets, knives, spears, atlatls, and bows. As early as 1700, some tribes began to adopt firearms for both hunting and warfare. However white-settler controlled supplies of gunpowder and firearms ensured that traditional weapons were not abandoned.
Cisco’s collection includes pieces representing many tribes, all of which are authentic. Most are true 19th century weapons, but the collection also includes revival ceremonial pieces from 1880-1920, and a few “for sale” tourist pieces pre-1930. Included are bows and arrows, arrowheads, quiver cases, Native embellished rifles and scabbards, knives, beaded sheaths, ball clubs, root clubs, spiked gun stock clubs, war axes, and pipe tomahawks.