M11114 | Knife sheath panel

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Knife sheath panel
Anonyme - Anonymous
Eastern Woodlands
Aboriginal: Menominee?
1740-1780, 18th century
Moose or deer hide, moosehair or porcupine quills, sinew
5.7 x 23.1 cm
Gift of the Natural History Society of Montreal
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Strip (114)
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Keys to History

During the 18th century, most Aboriginal warriors owned a European-manufactured knife, which was carried in a decorated sheath worn suspended from a strap around the neck. This top panel from an early knife sheath is ornamented with quillwork embroidery and sewn with sinew. It is possible that the lozenge and circle shaped motifs were designed to please important spirits or to convey special potency to the weapon.

Women created the majority of the garments and accessories, painting, weaving and stitching them with powerful cosmological motifs. The choice of materials and the manner in which the object was constructed could be deeply significant, intended to
please certain spirits and protect the wearer.

  • What

    This appears to be the top panel of a knife sheath: it is made of hide (deer or moose) that has been embroidered with simple line work of dyed porcupine quills. Knife sheaths were made to hold European manufactured knives that often had bone or antler handles.

  • Where

    Knife sheaths of varying styles were used by Aboriginal people across North America. The distinctive motifs rendered in quillwork suggest that this panel comes from the region of the western Great Lakes.

  • When

    The motifs on this knife sheath panel and the fact that it is sewn in sinew suggest that it dates to the mid to late 18th century, probably from about 1740 to 1780.

  • Who

    The distinctive circle and diamond motifs on this panel resemble work done by Aboriginal groups living in the western Great Lakes region - in particular, the Menominee, an Algonquian-speaking group native to what is now northern Wisconsin.