Sister Bernard on lodge decoration
Sister Bernard Coleman, O.S.B. A dissertation to the faculty of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences of the Catholic University of America in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Anthropological Series, No. 12.
My informants were not agreed on whether Ojibwa dwelling were decorated. The great majority of my one hundred and fifty informants on this question stated that they had never seen any decoration of any kind on either the conical lodge (nassawaogan) or the wigwam (waginogan). They attributed this absence to the unsuitability for decoration of the materials, namely rush mats and birch bark used in shelter construction. George Hyde of Cass Lake, a very dependable informant, ninety-four years of age, who has the reputation of being the oldest Indian in Cass Lake, and who concurred in the view of lack of decoration on shelter, added that only the Sioux decorated their tipis...A few of the older men and women living on the reservations, however, reported that they had seen paintings on one or two of the old lodges. Several of the old men believed that decoration of wigwams was a privilege granted only to a chief, because they had seen a chief's wigwam with a decoration upon it. They explained the importance of ornamentation in giving prestige to the chief in his exalted position, and in designating his dwelling so it could be easily recognized in the village. Mrs. Frank Broker of Cass Lake informed me that when she was a child, her grandfather used to point out the chief's wigwam to her, saying that people could tell where the chief lived because his lodge was decorated with a design of a horse or an eagle. Mrs. Murray stated that when she lived in Mille Lacs, as a young girl, she had seen a chief's wigwam with a red eagle-feather painted on the right side of the lodge door, while outside on the opposite wall was painted an eagle with light blue-and-white wings, and with a bald head...Mrs. Elizabeth Rock told me that when she lived at Ponsford she was a wigwam with a picture of a bird drawn on it in charcoal...Several informants explained that ordinarily the Ojibwa did not decorate their wigwams, but that if a warrior, whether a chief or prominent tribesman, wished to do so, he could, for there was no definite regulation against it...All my informants agreed, however, that the Ojibwa would not decorate their lodges merely to suit their fancy, and that even paintings on door coverings were very uncommon.
Sister Bernard Coleman, Decorative Designs of the Ojibwa of Northern Minnesota (Washington, D.C. The Catholic University of American Press, 1947) 14-16.