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Ron & Donna Miller - Publishers

Adam & Eve Could Have Fed
The Apple To A Horse


This horse mask is Cheyenne from the mid-19th century. The buckskin head drape is covered with vegetable-dyed quillwork, and decorated with clipped and dyed feathers.

The species of grazing horse that we know today, according to the most recent research, actually originated in North America. Fossils found in Nebraska indicate they lived here 1.4 million years ago. However, prior to the Ice Age, which doomed many of the large mammals living on this continent, some of the early horses had crossed the land bridge that existed and found their way to Eurasia.

It was not until the explorations by European invaders and colonizers in the 16th century that horses were re-introduced to their native continent. Coronado led an expedition that may have brought as many as 1,000 horses to an area stretching from Mexico to Kansas. By the early 17th century, the Spanish had colonized the area around Santa Fe, New Mexico, and begun breeding horses. And it wasn’t long before the Apache began stealing them, and trading them with other tribes to the north and east.

Before many decades had passed, the horse was integral to the lives of the Native Americans. And as the horse became more important, so did equine tack and equipment. This is the subject of a recent book by E. Helene Sage, Native American Horse Gear, sub-titled “A Golden Age of Equine-Inspired Art of the Nineteenth Century.”

The book focuses on the equipment used by 19th century tribal men and women in several different areas of North America: the Plains, Prairie, Great Basin, Plateau and the Southwest. This equipment includes bridles, saddles, saddle blankets, saddlebags, breastcollars, quirts [crops or whips], masks and equine imagery in utilitarian objects.

I found the masks especially interesting. It is not what one expects to see on a horse! The author quotes an early explorer, who had met a party of Cheyenne during a trading expedition, as observing that their horses were masked to imitate the head of a buffalo, red deer, or goat, with horns, the mouth, nostrils and eyes trimmed with red cloth. While there is an indication that sometimes masks were worn for war, most were used for ceremonial purposes. One might still see some in use at the Pendleton Round-up in Oregon.

This is a well-researched book (as one would expect from Dr. Sage, whose career was in cellular and molecular biology at the University of Washington,) and illustrated with over 200 photographs. In hard-back, it is priced at $49.99. Native American Horse Gear (ISBN: 978-0-7643-4210-3) is a 2012 Schiffer publication. Check with your local bookseller, or visit the online catalog:

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Schiffer Book Details Mexican Folk Art
Masks & Puppets


Masks may be either male or female. This is a female mask, nicknamed “La Gringa” by the carver, Miguel Juan Marquez. Her hair is a yellow-green color and she has eyelashes and pierced ears. Marquez is a contemporary carver, living in the small and isolated community of Africa Vieja in San Felipe Tepatlán, Puebla.

Mexican Masks and Puppets, Master Carvers of the Sierra de Puebla, by Bryan J. Stevens is a colorful look at a very specialized form of Mexican folk art.

In the Mexican states of Puebla and Veracruz, old masked dances have survived in isolated mountain regions. The masks of both human and animal faces may be beautiful, comic or wicked, and are used during religious fiestas. They have been created by indigenous carvers, known as mascareros. There are many old masks still in use, but mascareros continue to create new ones on an on-going basis.

The layered mountains and valleys of the Sierra de Puebla keep many of the communities isolated from one another and many of the old ways of living have been maintained. While the Spanish conquerors several hundred years ago tried to convert the Indian inhabitants of Mexico to Christianity, and did so to a certain extent, many of these converts melded it with their earlier deities to create a blended religion. The author discusses these blended beliefs in detail in the opening pages of the book.

Also included is a section explaining the geography of the region.

Over 700 photographs show the colorful masks and puppets; included are photographs and biographical summaries of today’s mascareros.

Mexican Masks and Puppets (ISBN: 978-0-7643-4027-7) is priced at $49.99. It is available from Schiffer Publishing. Order online at or contact Schiffer at (610) 593-1777.

Donna Miller

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