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  • Reflections of a Piikani Warrior - Blackfeet Warrior - James Ayers Painting

Reflections of a Piikani Warrior

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Title: Reflections of a Piikani Warrior
Tribe: Blackfeet
Size: 30" x 46"
Medium: Oil on canvas
Price: $19,500


More about Reflections of a Piikani Warrior

In a welcome moment of respite for this mighty man, he reclines and reflects on his community. He thinks of what has been and what is to come.

This Piikani warrior sits in his tipi and allows himself some time to relax. He sits, enjoying the airbursts coming through the ventilated sides of his lodge. He daydreams. His mind wanders in the lazy afternoon. He thinks of yesterday, yesteryear, and tomorrow. He feels at peace among his people this afternoon and is thankful for a moment to rest.

About the composition

In Reflections of a Piikani Warrior, his sacred shield frames his face. This compositional element adds intensity and drama to this piece: You see him starring in profile and are almost forced to ask, “what is he thinking about?”.

Sitting in his lodge, the man has lifted the sides to allow for better airflow. These gaps allow light to come in, which creates a line that draws your eye across the canvas. This light really sets up the composition, as it helps to frame the figure.

The tipi is the perfect piece of architecture for this semi-nomadic people and really lends itself to this composition. It is beautiful yet functional, simple yet complex, and warm yet cool. The Piikani were aware of this dynamic beauty and decorated the tipi both inside and out. The painting is mostly warm colors that are vastly contrasted by the deep blue of the warrior’s shirt.

About the subject

Given that this tipi is the warrior’s abode, items that are both personal and practical surround him.

The warrior reclines in the back of the tipi, on a willow chair. This chair was a traditional tipi chair, with buffalo hide as the seat.

The most prominent component of what the warrior wears is his shirt, which identifies him as a “shirt wearer”. The shirt wearers dedicated their lives to the defense of their people, this commitment symbolized by the locks of hair attached to the shirt. These are not, as you might suspect, pieces of hair from rivals bested in battle. Instead, they are symbols of all the people in the shirt wearer’s own tribe for whom he has responsibility. He wears moccasins along with leggings. Both are adorned with quillwork.

He holds in his hand a medicine staff. These staves are sacred objects, with only a few people in the tribe being allowed to use them (let alone even see them). On the end of the staff is an eagle head—a sacred animal for the Blackfoot and most Plains peoples because it flew closest to the Great Spirit and is a powerful predator. Beads, ermine, eagle feathers, and trade cloth are all tied to it.

Some of his possessions are hung around him, a bead strip, bags, and bundles of feathers. He sits around bowls used to burn incense, juniper, or sage (used for smudging). One of those bowls might even have a snack in it. The parfleche bag on the far right is made of rawhide and used for storage, including domestic items used for the preparation of food or holding important object. 

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