Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
June 17, 2000 - Issue 12

Rain-in-the-Face's Waistcoat Found in Glasgow Museum
His Grand-daughter is hoping it will soon be back in South Dakota
Written for Canku Ota by Eva Marie Olsson-Barton and Lewis N. Ballantine-we thank you.
Photo of Marcella and her Grandchildren by Lewis Ballantine
Photo of Vest courtesy Kelvingrove Museum

The first time Marcella LeBeau, from Eagle Butte, Cheyenne River Reservation, in South Dakota, became aware of Rain-in-the-Face's waistcoat was in 1995. She was visiting the Kelvingrove Museum, in Glasgow, Scotland, in connection with the-later successful-attempt to have the Ghostdance-shirt, held in the Museum, returned. Much to her amazement, she was shown a beautiful waistcoat, which had once been worn by her grandfather, Rain-in-the-Face.

The Museum acquired the waistcoat in 1892, together with other Native American artifacts, one of them being the Ghostshirt, which was returned in the summer of 1999. During 1891/92 Buffalo Bill Cody was touring Europe with his Wild West Show and spent the winter in Glasgow. One member of the group was George Crager. Mr. Crager had a colorful career behind him. He had been a soldier in the U.S.Army, and seen action out west and also spent some time living with the Dakota, where he learned to speak their language. He worked as a correspondent for "New York World," which brought him to the Pine Ridge area at the time of the Wounded Knee Massacre. He was also a collector of Native American artifacts, including the waistcoat, which the Museum acquired from him.

The waistcoat is a beautiful garment, made out of buckskin and covered with beadwork in the lazy-stitch pattern. On a white background can be seen a number of geometric patterns, both rectangular and diamond-shaped. The main pattern on the back of the waistcoat depicts two pyramid shapes with "Stars and Stripes" flags at the tops, one on either side of the coat. Down the center of the back runs a blue line, intersected by pairs of short lines in the same color, while at the bottom there is a horizontal blue line with seven vertical lines, these are also blue. Above each pyramid are identical diamond shapes. The front has three rectangular patterns, one of which is decorated with hide tassles with brass beads. There is also a single diamond-shape. Crosses can be found both on the front and on the back.

Rain-in-the-Face himself was a Hunkpapa Lakota born near the forks of the Cheyenne River about 1835. There are several different versions of how he got his name, one of them telling about how he was left outside the tipi in his cradle, when a shower broke and rain fell on his face. He is said to have been involved in the Fetterman massacre near Fort Kearny and is rumoured to have been wounded at Fort Totten two years earlier. Rain-in-the-Face has gone down in history as the man who killed General Custer, in the Battle of the Greasy Grass (Little Bighorn). This is something which he himself has refuted in a number of interviews in later life and which possibly more to do with Longfellow's poem than reality. He passed on in October 1905.

In 1999, we agreed to assist Marcella LeBeau with her request for the repatriation of Rain-in-the-Face's waistcoat from the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery, in Glasgow.
The return of times like these is, of course, of great importance to the cultural continuity of the Lakota, as they provide links between the past and present and will help people struggling to repair losses caused by historical events.

In order to deal with repatriation requests, the City of Glasgow and its Museum service have set up a unique system, consisting of a repatriation subcommittee, made up of three local authority councilours. Information connected to a request will be presented to this panel by whoever is making it. Other experts, representatives of the Museum in question and other interested parties will also be present, as needed. In each case, a number of factors will be taken into consideration. These include issues like the cultural and religious importance of the item, to the community, how it was acquired, the authority of the person making the request, and what will happen to the object should it be returned, etc.

In preparation for the Hearing, which took place on May 25th, 2000, we did as much research as was possible within the time span available and were eventually able to produce a report to be presented to the panel. Apart from ourselves, the panel at this Hearing consisted of the councilours for the Museum, Mark O'Neill, Head Curator for the Glasgow Museums, and his Research Assistant. A large number of e-mails had come our way, all backing us and urging the Council to return the waistcoat. Our thanks to you all! We also managed to collect many signatures from mainly Glaswegians, we in true tradition voted with their hearts and said in real Glasgow style, "It disnae belong to us, it should go back!"

It has been suggested that the waistcoat be kept in Scotland, for educational purposes, but to want to keep this for the sole purpose of educating the citizens of Glasgow and its visitors is, we feel, to take a very selfish stand. Surely the waistcoat is of more educational benefit to the Lakota Nation, than to the citizens of Glasgow! This, and other questions, were discussed during the approximately two hours we spent, with the panel. In the end, it was generally agreed that this is indeed Rain-in-the-Face's waistcoat and, as Ms LeBeau has confirmed, that the waistcoat, on return, will be on temporary load to the Heritage Museum, in Pierre, South Dakota, until such times as it can be securely housed elsewhere. The question of what will happen to the coat, on return, should no longer be a problem to the panel. It is now only to be hoped that our case for repatriation is strong enough to convince the subcommittee that the waistcoat should be returned to Marcella Lebeau, her extended family, and the Lakota Nation and that when we all meet again, on September 12th this year, that will be their decision.

We feel that an item like the waistcoat in question, which has belonged to a member of high standing in the community-Rain was a Chief-is of significant value to that community in as much as it presents a link to their earlier history, and should consequently not be kept in a museum halfway around the world, but be available for present and future generations, of that community, as a link to their past. While the claim might be made by one member of the community, it is a request which, should the waistcoat be returned, will benefit all---it was said during the Hearing that Glasgow Museums are filled with objects which have been donated and whose previous owners and their families take pride in this fact. However, one can only assume that these people have chosen to do this, while it can hardly be said that Rain-in-the-Face's family has done the same or indeed had the choice of whether or not to donate this object to the museum, in the first place! While it is undeniably true that museums have indeed helped to preserve items which would otherwise have been lost due to circumstances most often without the previous owners' control, there comes a time when these items should be returned in order to further the cultural development, historically, artistically and educationally, in the community which first created them!

There is STILL time to give us your backing. Should you like to do so, please e-mail your request, for the return of the waistcoat, directly to

Eva Marie and Lewis can themselves be reached at

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