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APACHE CANTEEN – SCARCE APACHE WARS ERA NATIVE WOVEN BASKETRY SPECIMEN IN VERY GOOD CONDITION:  A relatively scarce artifact of the Apache Wars Era, commonly known as an Apache Canteen, is a masterly executed example of the native basketry art.  Woven in the same tight method as other Apache basketry pieces, the canteen features rigid faces and side piece, and a masterfully fashioned integral spout and pair of suspension cord guides.   

While the Apache’s traditional method of carrying water was the Tus, as they were exposed to the European cultures and accoutrements, certainly the native basket makers rose to the challenge to copy those pieces they found useful.  Between the centuries of exposure to the Spanish, Mexicans and Americans who ventured into Apacheria, there was ample opportunity to become familiar with the form and function of the canteens they carried.  To their credit, not only did the Apache successfully copy the form of the canteen in their native basketry, but they created a piece which is not only functional, but presents as an attractive piece of art.   

Measuring 6” in diameter and 2 ¼” wide, this canteen has survived in very good condition, showing only the slightest evidence of wear and age.  The weave is tight throughout with no weak points or breaks.  The rims of each side which stand proud of the faces of the canteen have experienced some wear with a couple of small sections worn away, but this does not affect the integrity of the canteen nor does this minor loss open any seams or edges.  On one side are two places where pine pitch was used to seal the weave.  These applications of pitch are commonly seen on larger Apache tus and ollas and both of these show age and were certainly done concurrent with the use of the canteen.   

The spout is an amazing example of basket maker’s skill as it is woven as an integral part of the canteen, rather than being a separate addition.  The spout is full form, showing no wear, weakness or loss around the rim.  Both suspension string guides are present and intact.  The original full length suspension string is intact and still quite supple with no weak points.  (See the size comparison photo below, showing this canteen pictured along side a standard Civil War canteen.) 

Obtained from an advanced collection of unique 19TH Century Apache items, this canteen shows evidence of use as seen from the polishing of the face surfaces where it was carried against a person’s body or hung against the body of a horse.  This is not a piece which was produced for the early 20TH Century tourist trade, but a canteen which certainly saw use in the arid Southwest frontier where even a small vessel of water meant the difference between life and death.     

This is a very beautiful piece which would complement a collection of any number of different subject concentrations – Native American, Indian Wars frontier army to name only two.  To be honest, it took some doing to pry this one out of my wife’s hands and list it for sale.  Quite scarce with very few of these appearing on the market and given that as long as we have it she can still change her mind about selling it, I wouldn’t wait too long on this one.  (0368)  $950



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