John Pepion's Heartfelt Tribute to Plains Indian Horse Culture

November 01, 2018

Blackfeet artist John Pepion has woven together childhood memories, cultural legacies, and the vibrant hues of the breathtaking Montana skies into a beautiful tribute to Plains Indian horse culture. Eighth Generation is proud to collaborate on a blanket that is as visually stunning as it is rich with meaning and memory. Get to know the "Lightning Horse" Wool Blanket below!

The "Lightning Horse" Wool Blanket by John Pepion (Blackfeet Nation), $208

John is the latest collaborator in Eighth Generation's Inspired Natives Project, through which Eighth Generation partners with emerging Native arts entrepreneurs, providing business mentorship and capacity building. John says of the partnership, "Being a collaborator with the Inspired Natives Project means that I get to bring light to Plains Indian culture. And being a member of the Piikani band of the Blackfoot Confederacy, it was important to me to represent the horse on my first wool blanket."

For John, this blanket pays tribute to the importance of the horse to him personally, as well as its longstanding cultural importance for Plains people. As a kid, he would pile on his grandfather's horse, a gentle Pinto named Cheyenne, and ride around with his cousins. "Sometimes three or four of us would be riding at the same time! That's the best memory of horses I have," John reminisced. "Horses have always been a part of my life. The Plains Indian horse culture is alive and well."

The "Lightning Horse" Wool Blanket by John Pepion (Blackfeet Nation), $208

Beyond this personal significance, John describes the rich cultural legacy of the horse in Plains culture, saying that before the horse's introduction, Plains people relied heavily on the dog – a time he refers to now as the “dog days”. The very first horse that came to the Piikani became known as the Elk Dog, revolutionizing the way they were able to hunt, and becoming an integral part of everyday life on the Plains.

For this blanket, John has depicted the horses as they were sometimes painted before going on a hunt, raid, or into battle - with circles above their eyes to make them see farther and lightning on their bodies to make them run faster. The design is rendered in John’s signature contemporary ledger art style, a tradition that developed in Plains tribes as the buffalo hide they traditionally used for painting became scarce, and they were forced to adapt to making artwork on the ledger paper from accounting books.

The "Lightning Horse" Wool Blanket by John Pepion (Blackfeet Nation), $208

John plans on giving his first wool blanket to his daughter, saying, "She's going to be nice and warm through the Montana winter." We are honored to play a role in creating what is sure to make a meaningful (and cozy) tribute for many years to come.




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