According to traditional Cheyenne belief, shields are living, spirit-filled beings, radiating supernatural power from the Supreme Being for protection and blessing. Shields stand at the nexus of several dimensions of Cheyenne culture, including spirituality, warfare, and artistic expression.
From 1902 to 1906, fifty Cheyenne elders spoke with famed ethnologist James Mooney, sharing with him their interpretations of shield and tipi heraldry. Mooney's handwritten field notes of these conversations are the single best source of information on Plains Native shields and tipi art available and are a source of inestimable value today for both the Cheyennes and for scholars.
In 1955, with the blessing and permission of the Keepers of the Two Great Covenants and the Chiefs and Headmen of the Northern and Southern Cheyenne People, Father Peter J. Powell began a five-decade effort to help preserve the religion, culture, and history of the Cheyenne People for the generations ahead. His transcriptions and annotations of Mooney's notes on Cheyenne heraldry is the culmination of these efforts. This two-volume set features nearly 150 color illustrations as well as more than 50 black and white photographs.
James Mooney (1861-1921) was an American anthropologist with the Bureau of American Ethnology for more than thirty-five years and is recognized as one of the nation's leading experts on Native Americans. Father Peter J. Powell is a research associate of the Newberry Library, the spiritual director of St. Augustine's Center for American Indians, Inc. in Chicago, and a member of the Chief's Society of the Northern Cheyenne People. He is the author of Sweet Medicine and People of the Sacred Mountain: A History of the Northern Cheyenne Chiefs and Warrior Societies, 1830-1879, winner of the National Book Award in history.