A Compendium of Useful Information for the Practical Man/Indian Lore/Indian Bags

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Parfleche[edit | edit source]

Parfleche or rawhide bag. As to form, they are of two types — those opening on the longer side and those opening on the shorter side. All vary much in size, ranging from 20 to 60 cm., on the longest side. The proportions of the two sides on a denominator of 10, range from 6 to 9. They are closed by a flap and are held in place by two thongs passed through as many holes in their edges. The edges are covered with cloth, either blue or red. The sewing is by an over stitch, holes being punched in the edges of the rawhide through which a single thong is passed, always from the same side. Apparently this sewing starts from the bottom of the bag. A knot is tied in the thong, some distance from the end, so that in the finished bag, the loose ends hang freely from the corners, forming simple pendants. However, two bags in the collection are sewed with a single thread passing in and out instead of over the edge. The short carrying strap is fastened on the back near the top. One large bag is provided with a strap long enough to pass over the shoulders. The faces of these bags and the flaps are decorated with painted designs.

To fill the parfleche, it is opened and the contents arranged in the middle. The large flap is then brought over and held by lacing. The ends are then turned over and laced. The closed parfleche may then be secured by both or either of the looped thongs.

Primarily, parfleche were used for holding dried meat, dried berries, tallow, etc., though utensils and other belongings found their way into them when convenient. In recent years, they seem to have more of a decorative than a practical value; or rather, according to our impression, they are cherished as mementos of buffalo days, the great good old time of Indian memory, always appropriate and acceptable as gifts. The usual fate of a gift parfleche is to be cut into moccasin soles. With the possible exception of the Osage, the parfleche was common among all these tribes but seldom encountered elsewhere.

Material culture of the Blackfoot Indians, Volume 5 By Clark Wissler