DescriptionA CROW OR PLATEAU QUILLED AND BEADED BUFFALO HIDE BLANKET STRIP
buffalo hide, horsehair, natural and dyed porcupine quills, glass seed beads, sinew, mounted on contemporary blue wool cloth with hide thongs, red pigment
Dimensions of blanket: 57 inches; length of strip: 44 inches
In the mid-19th century, blanket strips became a salient decorative object type among the Plains, Plateau and some High Desert American Indian tribes. The concept of the blanket strip has origins in a relatively short, narrow band composed primarily of porcupine quillwork that covered the seam after excising the bulging hump area of a tanned buffalo hide -- excised for the purpose of flattening the hide. This decorative band of quillwork (or beadwork) was applied directly to the hide and extended for more than a third of the hide's length, from just behind the neck, down the back toward the tail. The later blanket strips, composed of tanned hide (or even canvas) were decorated and then applied to the hide robe or wool blanket. Usually, to permit ease in handling while being quilled and / or beaded, the hide strips were worked in sections--rectangles and rosettes, then sewn together once finished.
As with most object types, individual examples can be relegated if not to a specific tribe, to a cultural or artistic area. Often overlap of the arts exists between tribes and areas-construction techniques, motifs, and color combinations being closely shared. Nonetheless, in some instances certain features (usually color combinations) can lend clues for attribution to a specific group. This blanket strip is a type made by both the Crow and at least some of the Plateau tribes in the middle / late middle 19th century. The primary technique used to decorate the rectangular panels and alternating rosettes is labeled, "quill-wrapped horsehair." Natural and dyed, flattened porcupine quills are wrapped around small bundles of long horse tail hairs, and are stitched in place. However in the case of this strip, the quills are wrapped around horsehair only on the rosettes; the rectangular panels feature quill-wrapped sinew, which is quite unique. The linear bundles are affixed closely parallel to each other to fill in the area. Alternating bars of color or geometric motifs form designs within the rectangles. Concentric rows of quill-wrapped horsehair bundles form the rosettes. As is typical with this genre of blanket strip, a single row of "lane-stitch" beadwork forms a border along the outer margins of the strip.
It can be said that figuratively, and even symbolically, blankets adorned with quilled and / or beaded strips largely replaced highly ornamented buffalo robes used in former times. The numbers of ways that Indian people employed-and continue to wear and employ wearing blankets varies considerably. A wearing blanket can accompany a person to an event whether or not he or she is fully attired in Indian clothing. It is ready to be used appropriately at any time one is called to appear in front of the assemblage. When not actually worn, but in a person's possession during events, a blanket can be draped over a bench or chair, or folded into a square bundle and placed one's chair to mark his or her place in the given event. A blanket can be doubled twice with the strip oriented vertically, and carried over one's flexed arm. When actually worn as an outer garment during festive or formal occasions, a blanket might be wrapped around the entire body-the strip displayed like a "belt" around the midriff or waist. One arm might be left out of the blanket, leaving the arm and hand free for use. A blanket might be folded almost in half with the strip at the top, and wrapped around the lower part of the body-almost to the moccasin tops.
Condition report available upon request.
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