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”This work will be of much interest to those who study Plains Indians and their religion.”   Professor Robert E. Bieder, Indiana University




Riku Hämäläinen, Ph. D.

Bear Shields of Plains Indians

Motifs and Meanings


Shields were pieces of men’s essential equipment in the traditional culture and religion of the Plains Indians of North America. They were used from prehistoric times until the turn of the 20th century. Ethnohistorical sources prove that shields were not only used as weaponry accouterments such as armor. They were also used as religious objects. 

For the Plains Indians, one of the most powerful and remarkable animal was the grizzly bear. The significance of the bear has played a particularly important role as a physically strong and awesome but also wise animal. Bear motifs are an imposing aspect of Plains Indian art.

The aim of this study is to examine the Plains Indian shields with bear power motifs and the meaning of the bear as well as to discuss methods for studying these subjects.

With the present survey, the internationally known scholar Riku Hämäläinen of the University of Helsinki, Finland increases our  knowledge and understanding of the significance of bear symbolism of  Plains Indian shields.

This volume is the author’s Ph. D. work, a worldwide unique study.

 Format 10.5x8.5 inches ( (26.5x21 cm). 156 pp. 54 figs. in color + 2 maps. Softbound.

ISBN 978-3-89510-128-1                                                                       Euro 50 / US-$ 66



ISBN     Prospective price  66.00 US-$