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Owinja - Star Quilt

Handmade Lakota star quilt
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Owinja means quilt in the Lakota dialect.

In the past century, Lakota women have raised their star quilts to an art form much in demand.

The majority of Lakota star quilts are dominated by a single star; however, multiple and broken star patterns are not uncommon.

The single star is made of small diamond-shaped patches pieced together in eight sections. When these sections are joined together, the eight-sided star is formed.

The star pattern is derived from early buffalo robe designs. The extermination of the buffalo herds coincided roughly with the implementation of the first mission schools where the craft of quilting was taught. The pattern bears a resemblance to various Anglo-American designs dating to the 18th century.

The morning star is an important figure in Sioux ceremonies. It represents the direction from which spirits travel to earth and is a link between the living and the dead (in extension), thus symbolizing immortality.

At funerals, the quilt is draped behind the casket, replacing the traditional red-painted buffalo hide.

Today, star quilts are one of the most valued gifts of the Sioux people, often made for "give-away" events such as memorial feasts, celebrations, naming ceremonies and marriages.

For the newly married couple, the star quilt is considered an essential gift, bestowing upon them recognition and respect.

 

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