Bear Claw Necklace (Pawnee)

Bear Claw Necklace (Pawnee), before 1870, grizzly bear claws and hide, otter pelt, beads, cedar, tobacco and other materials (Denver Art Museum), a Smarthistory Seeing America video

Speakers: Dr. John Lukavic, curator of Native Arts, Denver Art Museum and Dr. Steven Zucker

Additional historical narratives:

Matt Reed
Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Cultural Resource Division of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma notes that:

When the Lakota attacked, Sky Chief put the necklace and the family’s sacred bundle on his young daughter, put her on his horse, and told her to run. She made it to safety. Sky Chief died right after he killed his own little boy to prevent the child’s capture, torture, and death by the Sioux. When Sky Chief’s daughter eventually got back to Genoa, Nebraska (then the Pawnee Reservation), the little girl, now an orphan, was taken in by Bluehawk (Matt Reed’s grandfather), who raised her as his own. She grew up, married, and in 1987, her granddaughter, Elizabeth, gave the sacred bundle to the Earthlodge Museum in Republic, Kansas. More information on the bundle can be found here.

Roger Echo-Hawk
Pawnee tribal historian, notes that:

Stacy Matlock, a Chaui Pawnee chief, was said to have worn this necklace in 1925 during a visit to the Lakota when they formally apologized for the 1873 attack at Massacre Canyon. The Denver Art Museum acquired the necklace in 1973.

Smarthistory images for teaching and learning:

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More Smarthistory images…

Cite this page as: Dr. John P. Lukavic, Denver Art Museum and Dr. Steven Zucker, "Bear Claw Necklace (Pawnee)," in Smarthistory, January 10, 2018, accessed December 9, 2023,