• Notes From The Frontier

Angela's Awesome Art & Her Appy, Cappy

Only a couple of days ago, while writing the Notes from the Frontier post on Appaloosas, I came upon two incredible photos of an Appaloosa wearing native Nez Perce beaded regalia on GOOGLE and I wanted to use the photos for our blog. I contacted the artist, Angela Swedberg, and a wonderful world opened up to me! This adventure was so amazing, I ended up writing this blog about it because it was just too good to pass up. Once you read it, I think you’ll all agree.


When I first contacted Angela, I didn’t know who she was. She was happy to let me use her photographs and she said: “By the way, the Appaloosa modeling my beadwork is my own horse, Cappy, the Appy! He has his own website! He thinks he’s a celebrity.”






























She told me more: “Cappy was from a $230 kill pen mare that saved by a $10 bid over her meat value. She was an incredible horse.” And that mare that was saved from the kill pen had an incredible colt. Angela added:” Cappy has been so much fun and has become a very accomplished horse. From Cowhorse to Dressage, to Parades to Modeling. And he has given a few young kids championships in the show ring, too! I couldn’t ask for a better Appaloosa!” Angela was able to get a hardship registry for Cappy from ApHC (Appaloosa Horse Club). His registered name is “Medicine Cap Command.” (Cappy’s website is https://www.facebook.com/Cappy-The-Appy-152824128170712/ .)


I said, “Wow, what a great story! I should do a story on Cappy and you!” I explained that Notes from the Frontier was doing a special week commemorating the Nez Perce, including Appaloosas. Cappy and Angela’s Nez Perce beadwork would fit right in!”

Then the conversation turned absolutely magical. I explained that I was working on the Appaloosa post that day and would start a post on the poignant Nez Perce story of Jackson Sundown. Angela texted back: “I LOVE JACKSON SUNDOWN! I actually restored a shirt he wore during his rodeo career. (#14) I also restored his wife’s dress!” Tingles ran down my spine. I couldn’t believe I had just stumbled upon Angela’s amazing beadwork, the wonderful rags-to-riches story of her Appaloosa, Cappy, and the amazing coincidence that she had restored a shirt of the Native American icon I was writing about! It was one of those quirky, wonderful serendipity coincidences: history bringing history lovers together!


The adventure only got better. It turns out that Angela Swedberg is one of the leading Tribally Certified Indian Artisans in the country. She not only does truly spectacular, historically accurate Native American beadwork and quillwork, she also does extensive restoration work for museums on Native American artifacts. For the last 30 years, she restores thousands of objects for numerous museums, including The Denver Art Museum, Stonington Gallery (Masterworks of the Northwest), the Coeur d’ Alene Tribes exhibit on Father DeSmet, The Portland Art Museum, and The Maryhill Museum of Art The last two museums also have on display some of Angela’s art glass.


She also presently has an entire set of Plateau horse gear on display at The Denver Art Museum. “I am very proud of that work. It was an entire year’s worth of work for that one horse.” And Angela’s work is on display, side by side, with the famous equine artist, Deborah Butterfield, who big bronze “Driftwood” horses. “To be in that kind of company is someplace I never imagined.”


But she adds: “Some of the most humbling work I have done is when a native family asks me to make something for a family celebration or funeral. Those things I don’t photograph, charge for or say much about. But I think they mean the most in the work I do.” Angela has done considerable public speaking at universities and art galleries, most on the subject of “Art fakes and Cultural Appropriation,” which is a huge issue in the museum world and among tribal peoples. “It is a complex subject full of differing scales of right and wrong. And a lot of gray!“ she says. She’s lectures at the University of Washington, the Denver Art Museum, Maryhill Art Museum, Portland Art Museum, Burke Art Museum, Clark County Museum, as well as presented at The National Folk Festival, Sun Valley Center for the Arts and Humanities, and many other venues.


Angela’s body of artwork and restoration projects has been so extensive, last year she was awarded the “Peace and Friendship Award” from The State of Washington and Washington State Museum for her contributions in restoring and saving antiquities.

Angela is self-taught and has had a strong affinity for horses and Native arts since she was five. (Her father was born and raised on the Mille Lacs reservation.) She is now nationally known for her exquisite bead and quill work. She uses authentic materials and historic techniques to create her artworks. Her work is found in numerous private collections and is worn by many Plateau and Northern Plains regions. In 2004, she was Artist in Residence at Pilchuck Glass School and in 2006, she won the Hauberg Native American Art Scholarship at Pilchuck. She draws inspiration from many sources, including archival artifacts and photographs of Plateau and Plains Indians, as well as petroglyphs and traditional Native symbolism. She has created a broad variety of artifacts, from moccasins to shirts, war regalia for horses to purses, parfleches, hats, pouches, gun cases, necklaces, dresses, war bonnets and war shirts, quivers, and cradle boards.


Since her horse, Cappy, is an Appaloosa, she has created many pieces of Nez Perce ceremonial regalia for her horse. (See photographs #1, #2, #11 and #12.) Cappy “models” his fancy duds for Angela’s blog is: https://angelaswedberg.blogspot.com . But, of the many hats Cappy wears, war horse is not really one of them, except as a model. He’s a very gentle horse and, Angela says, “He loves his little girls! One little girl named Anna was becoming very afraid to ride and show because she had been repeatedly dumped by her horse. So I offered Cappy to her. (#13) They had two practice rides and then off to the shows they went. They took the State Title in two shows! And she has now gone onto some really great things in her equestrian career. He was the right horse at the right time for her.”


Angela and Cappy found each other at the right time and the right place and, together, they are doing great work and showing off their wonderful Nez Perce and Plains Indians heritage. And the world is better—and more beautiful—for it.


See related post:

The Saga of Jackson Sundown



PHOTOS: (1 & 2) Angela’s beautiful Appaloosa, Cappy, modeling Nez Perce ceremonial regalia, incredibly beaded and patterned. This gear is typically for women. War regalia would utilize different symbols and designs. (3 &4) Angela’s artwork and restoration work has appeared in numerous museums across the country. She also speaks at museums and art galleries about Plateau and Plains Indian artwork and artifacts, especially the area of Art fakes and Cultural Appropriation,” a huge issue in the museum world and among tribal peoples. (5) Beaded panels created for a client who owns several top reining horses on the National Reining Horse circuit currently. The horses include Cashing Black Chex and Phantom Face. The panels were attached to a bag of smoked, brain-tanned deer hide using charlotte cut beads and 24k gold charlotte cut beads. (6) A “doctor’s bag” Angela made for a dear friend and another Native artist, Joe David, a very famous Nuu Cha Nulth. Joe was married into the Lakota Blue Horse family, so this bag is beaded in classic Lakota style on brain-tanned hide, sinew sewn, with antique Italian seed beads on brain tanned hide, Sinew sewn, and mounted on an antique doctor’s bag. This type of bag was made by several tribes in the late 19th Century. One of the areas where this type of bag was made to the top of its artistic expression was on the Cheyenne River Reservation. (7) A chest panel from a horse collar on display at the Denver Art Museum. The panel is made of brain-tanned moose hide with antique Italian seed beads and some metallic beads. Angela also incorporated Uranium Glass seed beads in the design. When the panel is backlit, the beads glow! The special beads represent the nuclear pollution that is leaking into the Columbia River from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and of which traces of the pollution can be found in the fish. Angela used a contour beaded background on the chest panel to represent the swirling waters in the river. The entire project took Angela a year to complete. (8) A pair of Lakota-style moccasins I made for a friend Mathew War Bonnet, done in the Lakota style of beading and construction. Sewn with real elk sinew, on Brain-Tanned buffalo leather and onto buffalo rawhide. About as “Old School” as one can get. The technique is known as “Lane Stitch” beading - often referred to as “Lazy Stitch” -although there is nothing lazy about it! (#9) A Quill-Wrapped Horsehair Shirt - Plateau or Nez Perce’ Style. Ca. 1850. It was made using brain tanned mountain sheep hides (What many of the early- to mid-19th century Plateau and Nez Perce shirts are constructed from as it is a superior leather. ) The technique, quill wrapped horsehair, was rare in the 19th-century and more or less disappeared in the late 1800’s. It was re-discovered. Angela is one of a handful who know how to do it, especially correctly. Angela used natural-dyed porcupine quills, horsehair, antique beads, human hair and antique trade cloth, as well as native paint pigments. (10) This shirt is about circa 1860, also a Quill-Wrapped Horsehair Shirt - Plateau or Nez Perce’ Style made with mountain sheep hide, natural-dyed porcupine quills, horsehair, antique beads, and horse mane hair. Often shirts referred to as “Scalp or hair shirts” used horse mane hair on them or perhaps a mix of horse and human hair. Most of these shirts are NOT made from scalped individuals. The hair is a representation. (11) A Lakota-style beaded horse mask, which narrates the story of how the horse came to be. It was titled “I am the Day, I am the Night”. It is made of brain-tanned hide, painted with pigment paints, beaded with 13/0 cut beads, 24K gold beads and sterling silver beads on brain tanned hide. It also is ornamented with hawk bells and heritage turkey feathers (no real eagle feathers are used for sale items). (12) A Nez Perce (13) Anna on Cappy. Angela’s young friend won two state championships on Cappy! (14) The early 1900s antique shirt worn by Nez Perce Rodeo World Champion, Jackson Sundown. Angela restored this shirt for a private collection, as well as an antique dress of Jackson’s wife, Cecilia.


© 2019 NOTES FROM THE FRONTIER Posted July 27, 2019

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