In Their Footsteps - Fire Bear's Moccasins

William Standing “Fire Bear” was born July 27, 1904 in Oswego, Montana on the Fort Peck Reservation.  He was named after his Grandfather and was the great-grandson of Wi-Jun-Jon, Chief of the Assiniboine Tribe.


Standing began his education at the Wolf Point Mission School and was one of five Kiowa Indians who became special students at the Univ. of Oklahoma under the guidance of Oscar Jacobson. In 1924 he graduated from Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, where he received his formal art instruction.


Although he started his career as an interior designer in Kansas, he moved back to Montana to paint the scenes and people that were so familiar to him. During the Depression years he supported himself by creating many pen-and-ink drawings that were turned into post cards. Standing is best known for these humorous sketches, but was also adept in oil, watercolor, and clay. During the 1930s, in collaboration with James Long, he produced a book titled “The Land of the Nakoda.” This volume, an in-depth sketch study of the Assiniboine tribe, is the focal point of the greatest body of Standing’s works.


Standing’s life ended too soon when he was in a fatal car accident on June 27, 1951, leaving behind his wife Nancy and one child. These beaded moccasins with the keyhole design were purchased by Bud Cheff, Jr in 1993 from O’neill Jones, who owned an art gallery and museum in Big Fork, MT and knew William Standing personally.


The beadwork on these moccasins is a traditional “keyhole” design in orange and white outlined in green and blue.  The entire side and back of moccasins are beaded using the spot-stitch method with a white background and smaller circles situated around the heel.  At the center of each circle are grey and blue glass beads.  Around the base of the moccasins in the lazy stitch method are alternating square and triangle.  Note the bar over each shape.  The hem of the ankle is a now-faded blue fabric, hand-stitched using blue thread.  View these moccasins and many more in our online catalog here.

Assiniboine Moccasins
Back view detailing spot stitch method & ankle hem.
Closeup of keyhole design
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