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UM to unveil historic ceremonial Native American dress

MISSOULA — The University of Montana is about make a valuable addition to its collections related to Native American heritage. On May 5, the College of Humanities and Sciences officially will unveil a ceremonial Native American dress that dates back to the early 1900s. The dress is on loan from the Braig family.

The unveiling will take place at 3:30 p.m. Monday, May 5, on the second floor of The Payne Family Native American Center.

“The dress reflects an important historical time in Montana and can serve as a valuable teaching tool,” said Dave Beck, chairman of the Department of Native American Studies. “Objects such as this provide our students with the opportunity to reflect on their own family stories and try to understand how they fit into the history of the state and the region.”

The dress originally belonged to Emma Sansaver, a Chippewa-Cree woman who attended the Fort Shaw Industrial Indian School during her formative years.

She also happened to be quite the basketball player and was a member of the Fort Shaw women’s basketball team that became world champions at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. Her remarkable story is featured in the book, “Full-Court Quest: The Girls from Fort Shaw Indian School Basketball Champions of the World,” written by Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith.

“The Payne Family Native American Center on our campus was always intended to stimulate interactions with the community and new opportunities to learn about Native American history and tribal cultures,” said Chris Comer, dean of the College of Humanities and Sciences. “We are so grateful to the Braig family for reaching out to UM and our college so that we can create opportunities for students and visitors to see this important and beautiful item.

“We also were lucky to have the Grizzly Riders International step up and help us create a secure, custom designed case for Emma’s dress so that visitors can see it up close,” Comer said.

For more information about the unveiling, call Cassie Strauss at 406-243-2568 or email cassie.strauss@mso.umt.edu.

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