The rare and valuable Stewart Collection of clothing, toys, tools, weapons and other artifacts was donated in 1996 to Central Wyoming College by Pat Stewart of Lander and her son, Lynn Stewart, of Dubois.
The collection was assembled by Jim D. Stewart, who worked at J.K. Moore’s trading post at Fort Washakie, during the early 1900s. He traded for items with Indians from the Shoshone, Arapaho, Sioux, Paiute, Cheyenne and other Rocky Mountain tribes. The collection was displayed in his home until about 1926 when most items were placed in storage. His son, Gordon, and daughter-in-law Pat, inherited the collection and approached former legislator and CWC counselor Scott Ratliff, who suggested the collection be displayed at the CWC.
Native American artists virtually never signed their artworks. This was in part due to cultural reasons. Perhaps more importantly, the pieces in this collection were created as functional, utilitarian objects. They were not intended simply to be displayed and admired in perpetuity. The identities of the individuals who created these beautiful pieces are lost to history. Nevertheless, the artifacts’ beauty and quality provide windows into people’s lives in another era, during the painful transition from frontier to reservation life-styles.
This exhibit showcases only about 30 percent of the Stewart Collection. Artifacts are rotated in and out of the exhibits by students in the CWC Museum Studies and Material Culture Studies classes. This strategy provides greater educational opportunities for students and preserves the artifacts longer by slowing degradation caused by prolonged exposure to light and other factors. Future exhibits will include more interpretation and stories in efforts to restore life to these objects.
Please visit the Central Wyoming Colleges Western American Studies program web site for more information.