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Help on Plains Indians beadwork

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  • Help on Plains Indians beadwork

    Something else picked up on my travels. This was said to be from southern Alberta and tagged as "reservation work c1910". I don't doubt that and it has all the signs of authenticity. I'm guessing it's Plains Indians and likely Blackfeet. Floral motifs and 'blue on white' are fairly common patterns.

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    Click image for larger version  Name:	DSC_0119a.JPG Views:	1 Size:	116.4 KB ID:	396251

    I suppose it could conceivably be a wrist-cuff for a child, but I'm more inclined to think it's a hair band for a ponytail. Any thoughts on what else it might be? Anything else you can add would be highly appreciated.
    I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.

  • #2
    Hi Roger. When I first saw the piece and before I read your narrative I was wondering the same thing. I can't say if I have a better suggestion. I'm going to do some "thinking out loud" and here are some thoughts regarding the possibilities you considered. (1) It seems like that piece of work would have a very short useful period as I think a child would very soon outgrow such a bracelet. Maybe too much effort expended for such a limited useful period. (2) a hair ornament makes more sense to me. HST, I know nothing about ponytail hair ties and I don't know how much hair that piece would hold in place. But it would be worth the effort to make something that could be useful for a long period. From the photo it looks like the inside diameter is approximately 2 inches. I assume the seller did not know for what purpose it was made.


    • #3
      Roger, I think that would be, as you said, more of a decorative hair cuff. It would be hard to be specific unless you knew when you acquired it, exactly where it came from. The Blackfeet, Cree, Ojibway, and Chippewa all lived on reservations from the Great Lakes to Montana, and into Alberta. It looks correct with the size beads, and shows a lot of use wear on the cloth, and the colors are correct for that period, 1910 - 1920. Many of these look so similar to each other, and they all had some type of floral pattern. It would be easier to pinpoint if you had beaded leggings, or a bandolier bag, the patterns would be larger and easier to identify. Not much help I guess, but at least I agree it has age, and not a tourist piece. The earlier ones ( pre 1900 ) had much smaller beads, and many had a mettalic look to them, like the little Iroquois purses that you often see on the market some where.


      • #4
        Thanks Paul

        Sadly, I can't find anything which looks like this in any contemporary photographs. Hair (for women) seems to have been largely worn 'loose' or in paired braids and, for the latter, they mostly seem to have used bindings of various kinds to secure them as 'pigtails' (both at the ends and up near the ears)... sometimes with additional ornamentation on the binding, but not a complete 'sleeve' like this. I can't see it being a 'scarf ring', but I suppose a 'sash/belt ring' of some kind might be an outside possibility. Any other thoughts welcome.
        I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.


        • #5
          Looks Plains Cree’. Is that light colored backing that most of beads are sewn onto Doe skin? I’m thinking is a ‘Scarf /Neck Tie Bolo ring. Alberta is Horse/Indian Cowboy Country. Maybe even possibly could be a Horse hair ornament tie?


          • painshill
            painshill commented
            Editing a comment
            Thanks for that... and I hadn't even considered horses. Back to the Plains Indians reference books! There are only two small exposed strips of the backing material for the beads, but it does appear to be very soft buck/doe skin. The seller had no idea what it was... just 'Indian junk' as far as he was concerned... and he let it go cheaply.

        • #6
          Well that’s a Dandy find! You have good eye. Combining Traveling and pickin is fun. And ya learn too.