Anita Fields

Cat. no. 17. Anita Fields. Osage, born 1951. It’s in Our DNA, It’s Who We Are, 2018. Wool, satin, silk, embroidery, beads, clay buttons, top hat, feathers. 45 x 58 x 18 in. (coat). 20 x 20 in. (hat). Minneapolis Institute of Art, courtesy of Anita Fields L2018.194. Photo: Tom Fields. © Anita Fields.


My name is Anita Fields, and I’m from Oklahoma, and I’m a member of the Osage tribe. Also Muskogee Cree, my mother is Cree, my dad is Osage. I’m a member of the Sun Carrier Clan. And my Indian name is . I’ve been making art since I was a kid. Being taught how to sew at a very young age; I go back to fabric over and over and over. And want to utilize fabric and textile into my work. I thought I want to make a series of Osage Wedding Coats. An Osage Wedding Coat is based on a military style coat from the 1700s, or maybe a little bit earlier. And these coats were given to Osage men. We’ve had an interaction with the French for a very, very long time through trade. So that is one way I have heard that we obtained the coats. Another one is that when delegations of Osage people went to Washington, D.C. in negotiations with diplomacy, these coats were gifted to them – these military style coats.

So they brought these coats back to the Osage tribe, to the people. The men were very big, and so these coats were too small for them. So they handed them over to the women. And the women started using them, and embellishing them and kind of going to an Osage aesthetic – started using them in a ceremony that is arranged marriages. The arranged marriages happened up until the early 50s. About the same time, these coats, because they didn’t have that use any more, started making their way into our elongika, our ceremonial dance. And they started being used as a way to, what we call Paying for the Drum.

My whole thought with this was that this coat is very symbolic, and has evolved to this time period today. It holds within it this wonderful, unique history. It’s such an important iconic thing that it’s still being used today. And you know it evolves, because of materials that are available today. You see innovation! This is just a symbol that talks about our history, that is a link to the past, that talks about our present (but I know that because it’s so important I can’t imagine it ever going away) and that it’s a link to the future.

So I had this idea with all that in mind that I wanted to make this coat that addressed our history, addressed who we are, talk about the things of today. So I wanted to make one that was very similar on the outside so that it would be very identifiable – this is a wedding coat. Then when you open it up it’s like mixed media. Silk on the inside, but with a printing process, with images from historic photos, historic documents, ethnology reports, my great-grandfather’s photograph, role number. Because this, this is our history. This is just talking about who we are, and how we arrived at this place and time, now. It’s not just an article of clothing. I always feel that this is what my grandmother gave to me and this is what I want to be able to pass on also.


Mia does not yet have a Native-language translation of this text.


Osage women began wearing U.S. military coats as wedding garments in the 1700s or earlier. The coats were diplomatic gifts to the Osage men from high-ranking U.S. government officials, but they were too small. So Osage men gave them to Osage women, who then embellished them with beadwork and embroidery. Later, the coats became a central part of a ceremony for the transfer of a sacred drum from one drum keeper to another and are still used that way today. Anita Fields’s coat acknowledges the garment’s long history by combining traditional textile techniques with symbolic designs, including embroidered DNA patterns, Osage orthography, and sun symbols on the surface of the coat. Family photos, historical documents, and images referencing Osage worldviews are digitally printed on the garment’s lining.