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NORTHERN PLAINS STONE HEAD WAR CLUB –– IMPRESSIVE WELL WORKED STONE HEAD, RAWHIDE COVERED, SINEW SEWN WITH QUILLWORK DECORATION – CLASSIC FORM:  This is a classic example of the war clubs carried by the warriors on the Northern Plains during the 19TH Century.  At once a lethal instrument in the hands of warrior and yet a graceful piece of Native art, it is little wonder that these clubs remain one of the most sought after Indian Wars era collectables.  Though lightly decorated, this example is definitely a war club made during the years of hostilities and not a piece made in later years for the tourist trade.   

Of the length and form often referred to as a “Horse Club”, this war club presents in such a length and proportions that it must have been a fearsome weapon when wielded by a mounted warrior bearing down on his enemy.  Further, this club exhibits several features which indicate it was a cut above the simple utilitarian clubs that are normally seen, possibly one carried by a warrior of some note or importance.   

Crowning the flexible shaft is an impressive stone head which was hand worked to shape, resulting in eight facets radiating out to each tip rather than the usual rounded oval shape.  The head is made of a light colored stone which exhibits a softening of the edges of the facets through age and wear.  The stone head is full form with no cracks, breaks or missing pieces.  At the top of the stone head at the peak of the securing hide is a bundle of short buckskin thongs which may have been in this simple form originally or each may have been decorated with a small feather, a common treatment on these clubs.   

Of special note, this club features finely executed bands of porcupine quillwork on the band of hide which secures the stone head to the shaft, and at regular intervals around the shaft.  As fragile as quillwork is, that this decoration survived intact is notable.  The quills were originally dyed and some evidence of the colors still survives on each band.  That the colors have faded indicates to me that the dye used was the natural pigments available before the stronger, longer lasting aniline dyes were obtained from the traders.  The quillwork is mostly intact, with one band around the shaft missing – simply worn away due to the club being carried.  The other bands show very minimal wear and for all intent and purposes are fully intact.    

The shaft, measuring 26” long and approximately ˝” in diameter, is covered with native rawhide stitched with sinew.  The sinew stitching is intact with no separation and has a smooth, well handled texture, again evidence of the age and wear of this piece.  The rawhide covering is very tight over the underlying wood shaft and the natural shape and curves of the wooden shaft can be seen and felt through the rawhide, indicative of it being made of natural growth wood and not finished lumber.  Attached to the bottom of the shaft is the remnant of an animal hair tassel, and based on the remaining hair, it appears that it is what remains of a section of a decorative buffalo tail pendant that was full length when the club was first made.   The rawhide securing the head and covering the shaft has a very pleasant aged and well handled patina.    

From the earliest years of conflict between the Native Americans and the American Soldiers, the war club in it various forms has been one of the most sought after battlefield trophies.  In the earliest of photographs taken of the interiors of period officers’ quarters and enlisted men’s barracks these war clubs can be seen hung on the walls as mementos of the soldiers’ service on the frontier.  This is an excellent specimen which has survived in particularly nice condition, and it will fit well with your display of Indian Wars era weapons and equipment.  (0414)  $1850



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