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    Property of a California Gentleman

    c. 1860

    ash wood, buffalo hide, glass beads, dyed porcupine quills, sinew, hand-forged iron

    Purchased by the current owner from Christie's American Indian Art, January 12, 2006.
    Ex-collection: Erie County Historical Society

    Length: 23 inches, excluding attachment

    Tomahawks are undoubtedly one of the object types that the general public most associates with North American Indians. Indeed, various types of tomahawks were ubiquitous among the many tribes from the East Coast across the larger portion of the United States and Southern Canada to just west of the Rocky Mountains. Evidently in the 17th century, "tomahawk" came into the English language from the Algonquian-speaking Powhatan Tribe of Virginia. Since earliest times, blacksmiths hand-forged iron blades for the Indian trade. Usually, Indians themselves fashioned the hafts out of hardwood, and applied various decorations such as hide handgrips, some with tabular pendants. The iron blade of this tomahawk is of the "spontoon" type, in that it is roughly diamond-shaped-the leading edge being pointed rather than straight like those of axes, hatchets, and most other tomahawks. In addition, two elaborative half-circles of metal extend outward from near the base. This genre of "hawk" (a popular abbreviation since early times) was probably less utilitarian than those with the more standard, straight-edge blades. Spontoon tomahawks, particularly ones bearing beadwork and porcupine quillwork decorations, lent themselves to being carried by males as accoutrements during formal occasions. Customarily, a man carried the tomahawk by grasping the handle near the head, with the haft resting up his forearm and in the crux of his elbow.

    The overall characteristics of the beadwork and quillwork of this tomahawk serve to attribute it to the Lakota / Western Sioux tribe, presently divided on several reservations in North and South Dakota, and Montana. However, the rather muted colors of the beads used help to specify that this tomahawk's probable origin was from a more northerly group, such as the Lakota on the Standing Rock Reservation (straddling the line between South and North Dakota), or the Fort Peck Reservation (in Northeastern Montana). Beadworkers of those areas generally employed a somewhat wider range of bead colors than is seen in most beadwork from the more southerly Sioux reservation. They preferred the medium range hues that contrast less with each other. The beadwork on the handle and pendant of this tomahawk done in "lane-stitch" on native-tanned buffalo hide is the most typical technique utilized by the Lakota. The dyed porcupine quills wrapped around the tops of the fringes extending below the slightly triangular, fully-beaded panel echo similar quilling on pipe bags / tobacco bags.

    Benson Lanford
    March 2015

    Condition Report*: Condition report available upon request.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2015
    15th Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 6,828

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