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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 STRIKING USE OF RARE METALLIC SEED BEADS:  This is a beautifully executed Northern Plains or Plateau beaded knife sheath, the body measuring just over 11 ½” long and 2 ½” wide at the top opening.  There is an additional 1” fringe sewn to the seam edge of the sheath from the opening down to the tip.  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 combination of the central floral design and the upper and lower geometric panels seem to suggest this sheath originated in one of the above named tribes. 

Of particular interest, this sheath features a combination of glass and metallic – both brass and iron – faceted seed beads.  In the norm, faceted metallic seed beads were generally used in very small amounts to highlight a design element executed in glass seed beads.  The metallic beads were apparently quite scarce at the time and were used sparingly and judiciously.  This sheath features a floral pattern executed in the vast majority with the brass and iron metallic beads, highlighted with small floral and geometric elements executed in white lined rose, dark blue, and white glass seed beads.  In some fifty years of studying Native American material culture, this is the most extensive use of metallic faceted seed beads I have seen on one artifact.  It truly is an unusual piece. 

The sheath is constructed of native brain tanned hide which is fully lined with cotton cloth.  The floral style beadwork was exquisitely executed in small elements and stitches using the beads described above.  While the brass faceted beads have tarnished through the years, when new made this sheath must have been a real show stopper with the complex designs.  The central floral designs are set off by sections of diagonal and horizontal stripes of white, more of the metallic, and dark blue beads at the top and bottom of the sheath.  The top of the sheath is edge beaded, again with the metallic beads. The beadwork was applied in tight, well executed contoured lines which are evidence that the woman who made this sheath was very skilled and experienced.  The beadwork is overall tight and intact with a minimal loss of a few strands along the folded edge.    

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 leather thong loop on the reverse for hanging the sheath from the original owner’s belt. 

The sheath is accompanied by an early Thomas Turner & Co. knife.  Turner was founded in Sheffield, England in 1802 and continued production into the 1950’s.  At some point in the first half of the 19TH Century, the company received a royal warrant in recognition of the superior nature of their product.  This warrant entitled the company to add “Cutler to His (Her) Majesty” to their maker’s cartouche on the blade. 

The use of “His” vs. “Her” Majesty in a particular cartouche provides information which helps to date the blade.  The maker’s cartouche on the blade reads “ENCORE; THOMAS TURNER & Co.; CUTLER TO HIS MAJESTY”.  “Encore” was a product trade name Turner registered soon after he founded his company.  That the town “Sheffield” is not included in the cartouche indicates an early 19TH Century style, and the lack of the country of origin being included in the cartouche dates the blade as having been manufactured prior to the Madrid Agreement of 1891 and the McKinley Tariff Act in 1891, both which required items to be marked with the name of the country in which they were made.  The use of “Encore” and the lack of the country of origin date this blade as having been made sometime between 1810 and 1891.  The use of “HIS” in the royal warrant claim indicates a male monarch sat the throne when this blade was produced.  As Queen Victoria ruled from 1837 to 1901, the use of “HIS” would indicate this blade was made prior to her reign, sometime between 1810 and 1837. 

Measuring 10 ¼” long in overall length, with a 6”, the single edged blade is legibly marked with very little of the maker’s mark affected by age and pitting.  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 some discoloration and pitting.  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.      

Despite the obvious signs of age and use, this sheath has survived in excellent condition and displays very well.  The heavy use of the metallic faceted beads and the 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.  (0335)  $1575

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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