Barbara Wells had an unusual childhood. Her father, J.W. “Duke” Wellington, was the superintendent of the Fort Belknap/Rocky Boy Reservations from 1946 - 1954. The Fort Belknap Reservation is shared by two Native American tribes, the Gros Ventre and the Assiniboine, a tribe belonging to the linguistic family of the Sioux.
The family lived in Harlem, Montana, the closest town to the reservation, and was in daily contact with the Native people of the region.
Wellington appreciated the Native crafts of the area, particularly the beaded items that have always been a hallmark of the Sioux people. During his time there, he became acquainted with Juanita Longknife Lefthand Tucker, who he considered to be the finest bead artist in the tribe. She was the daughter of Henry Lefthand and Growing Rock Woman and was born in 1897.
During her lifetime she became well known for her beadwork, and when she died at 103 years old, she had the pleasure of knowing that the large collection of beaded buckskin dolls that Wellington had collected were in the Hood Museum at Dartmouth College.
Every year, while they lived in Montana, Wellington would order two pair of moccasins by Juanita for his wife and daughter. One year, as a special a birthday present for Barbara, he asked Juanita to make a beaded buckskin jacket and purse. “It was in 1949 or 1950,” said Barbara. “I was 11 or 12 years old, and I have always treasured them.”
The jacket and purse are in great condition, having been well cared for since she outgrew them. Now living in Florida, Barbara has decided it is time to pass them on to someone who will continue to care for and appreciate them.
The only beading missing from the jacket are some of the small, flat, silver decorations at the tips of some of the stars. In the spirit of keeping the entire piece “authentic” we have not replaced these pieces, but if the buyer would like to have that done, we can do that.