Star Quilt


(click image for a larger view)

Star quilt by Rose Atkinson / diamond willow branch carved by Tribal Elder Jerome First
50” x 50

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About the artist
Rose Atkinson is an accomplished quilter who learned the art from her grandmother. She has taught star quilt making courses at Fort Peck Community College for nearly 30 years.

The star quilt medium is one of the traditional art forms popular among the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes of NE Montana. Since the 1930’s the medium has made its way onto the state’s basketball courts in the form of star quilt giveaway ceremonies. Usually, a basketball player from one of the schools at the Reservation honors a player or a coach from an opposing team. Contemporary star quilts are also a central feature at naming and honoring ceremonies on the Fort Peck Reservation, and are often made to honor veterans, dignitaries visiting the Reservation and to drape caskets during funerals.

With five kids heavily involved in athletics, Atkinson has lost count of the times she made star quilts for senior night and tournaments.  When quilts are laid out on the gym floor, some people may only see the dollar amount—it costs between $300 to $500+ for materials to make each quilt.  “But for a person giving away, you don’t think about how much it costs. What matters is that it comes from the heart,” Atkinson has said.

Rose’s students have been diverse in age (18-75) and gender. She has taught them the art, math and patience of star quilt creation.  Make It Right celebrates the tradition and beauty of star quilt-making that has thrived at Fort Peck.  We are inspired by what we have heard Rose say to her students “Put good feelings into your project, especially if it’s for someone else.  You are giving something good away.”

About Make It Right’s Native American art auction
Long before the establishment of Fort Peck, both the Dakota (Sioux) and Nakoda (Assiniboine) nations lived in what is now known as Montana, Saskatchewan, North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Minnesota and Iowa. The nomadic Tribes moved with the cycles of nature, food, medicine and education of each generation in a way that reflects their historical patterns of life as “Buffalo People.”

By 1881, a mere ten years after Fort Peck was established, the buffalo were gone from this region, due to a Federal campaign to subdue the Great Plains tribes during the 1800s.  This was a devastating blow to Buffalo People and their way of life. 

As unimaginable numbers of whites trekked west into Tribal land, missionary wives taught quilting techniques to Dakota and Nakoda women who made the medium their own.  These quilts–many bearing a central octagonal star—functioned as both ritual and practical replacements for buffalo robes and sometimes served as storytelling devices.

As a matter of adapting to the conditions of forced assimilation, coercion and imprisonment, traditional forms of pictograph art (which had typically been done on buffalo and elk hide) were replaced with the use of ledger and record books often acquired through traders, raiding parties, government or prison officials.  In the Great Plains tribes, this warrior style of art was used to record events such as battles, hunting, horse raids, ceremony and courtship. Pencil, crayon and earth pigments were the most commonly used drawing implements.

Make It Right is extremely grateful to the following artists who are Fort Peck Tribal members: Darryl Growing Thunder, Rose Atkinson and Jerome First.  Their contemporary artwork, based in the traditional forms, is gracing the walls of the show home for Dwell On Design 2015.   Viewers are encouraged to place bids on the artwork, knowing the winning bidder will receive the artwork and a tax receipt that states the portion of their bid that is considered a donation to the 501c3 non-profit of Make It Right.  The amount of the bid that is above the monetary value of the artwork will be used to continue Make It Right’s work with Fort Peck Tribes.