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NORTHERN PLAINS – PLATEAU BEADED KNIFE SHEATH WITH PROVENANCE – ASSINIBOINE, BLACKFOOT, PLAINS CREE, CROW, FLATHEAD, METIS OR SALISH - A LARGE, VERY ATTRACTIVE SHEATH IN EXCELLENT CONDITION WITH GREAT EYE APPEAL:  This is a beautifully executed Northern Plains or Plateau beaded knife sheath, the body measuring just over 10 ½” long and 2 ½” wide at the top opening.  There is an additional 15 ½” of fringe hanging below the tip of the sheath.  These floral designs were popular among such tribes as the Assiniboine, Blackfoot, Plains Cree, Crow, Flathead, Metis, and Salish peoples on the far northern plains of Canada and on the western plains and into the eastern plateau area of eastern Washington, Oregon, Montana and Idaho in the United States. 

The sheath is constructed of native brain tanned hide which is fully lined with a small check pattern cotton calico.  The floral style beadwork was exquisitely executed in very small seed beads utilizing the very desirable early 19TH Century colors in various shades.  The strikingly attractive designs were worked in three sections with the upper and lower floral presentations divided by a middle section of intersecting lines.  The main panels of beadwork are all edge beaded, including around the top opening.  The beadwork was applied in tight, well executed contoured lines featuring shading with complementary colors which provide depth and contrast to the design elements – all evidence that the woman who made this sheath was very skilled and experienced.  All of the beadwork is tight and intact with no loss or loose strands. 

The sheath is edged along the seam with matching buckskin fringe which is wrapped with two sections of porcupine quills - at the base and midway along each piece of fringe – an uncommon value added treatment which indicates this sheath was an important project for the both the maker and the user.  All of the fringes are intact and full length, and the quill wrappings have survived in very good condition, showing very little wear. 

The beads and hide show aging and patina consistent with old beadwork and evidence that this sheath was worn and used, and not fabricated for the tourist trade. There is an old piece of green silk ribbon tied through the belt slots fashioned on the reverse, perhaps for hanging the sheath from the original owner’s belt. 

The sheath is accompanied by an early Barclay & Brothers trade knife. It is believed that Barclay was founded in Sheffield, England in the mid-19TH Century, but beyond little is known about the company.  Their knives are not common, so that may indicate that their years of operation and their knife production was limited.  Measuring 10 ½” long in overall length, with a 5 ¾” single edged blade which is legibly marked with “BARCLAY & BROS., EUREKA, SHEFFIELD ENGLAND”.  The blade shows evidence of use, having been sharpened and the profile of the blade slightly reduced – evidence of its long use.  The blade is overall smooth with a couple of small areas of minimal discoloration and pitting, concentrated at the tip.  The wood handle scales are full form and intact, in excellent condition with no checks or splits, and still held firmly in place with the original iron pins.  Barclays knives were certainly traded out on the frontier and blades of this size would have been popular with the traders and Indians, certainly appropriate for being carried in this sheath.  

In spite of the obvious signs of age and use, this sheath has survived in excellent condition and displays very well.  With such a striking design and substantial size, this Beaded Knife Sheath will be a dramatic addition to your collection, and would a perfect piece to display on a Model 1876-79 Prairie Belt, one of the 1880’s Mills Cartridge Belts, or on a civilian buffalo hunter’s cartridge belt.  SOLD

PROVENANCE:  Hayter Reed (1849-1936)

This knife sheath was obtained from the collection of well known 19TH Century Canadian politician and collector, Hayter Reed (1849-1936).  Reed, a native born Canadian, was educated in Canada and after graduating from the School of Military Instruction in Kingston, he joined the 14TH Battalion of Volunteer Militia Rifles.  He rose in the ranks to brigade major and was transferred west to garrison duties at Ft. Garry, the location of present day Winnipeg.  Reed studied the law and upon leaving military service, he served in a number of government positions in the Department of the Interior, eventually being appointed as an Indian Agent in 1881, and Indian Commissioner in 1888.  He headquartered in Regina, then identified as being in the Assiniboia District, later as the capital of Saskatchewan.   Reed’s duties as Indian Agent and Commissioner no doubt fostered his interest in the material culture of the Native Peoples of the area and led to his accumulation of artifacts into a collection of some note.  After his passing, not only were artifacts sold to private collectors, but a considerable number of pieces were donated to museums in Canada, including the famous McCord Museum.   

Saskatchewan was the home of a number of reserves set aside for the First Peoples of Canada, including such tribes as the Assiniboine – also known as the Stone or Stoney Sioux, the Plains Cree, and Metis, as well as other tribes which migrated back and forth between the US and Canada with little regard of the international border.  These would include the Blackfoot, Crow, Flathead and Salish.  Reed would have had the opportunity to collect pieces of material culture from any and all of these tribes and he was certainly in a position to build a substantial collection.   

I purchased this sheath from a Canadian collector who in turn purchased it in Canada from a dealer who was selling pieces of Hayter Reed’s personal collection. 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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