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A Gallery of  Shoshone Parfleche

Parfleche (rawhide) containers served Plains Indians with the means to package and transport goods, clothing, and foodstuffs.  Among many of the tribes, it was women's work to make and decorate parfleche (often with designs passed down for generations through families).   In addition to familial designs, painted parfleches often are identified by tribal characteristics.  Crow, Lakota, Blackfeet, Ute, Nez Perce and other peoples all used mineral paints and designs that tended to reflect their particular artistic sensibilities.  For further information, the best single reference on Indian parfleche designs and styles is Gaylord Torrence's The American Indian Parfleche:  A Tradition of Abstract Painting (Seattle:  University of Washington Press, 1994). 

According to Torrence, Shoshone parfleche designs often depict a 3-part vertical division of the painted areas.  Another design favorite, found among the Crow and also Plateau tribes such as the Nez Perce, is a 9-block, where there are 9 separate rectilinear fields, with the center one the largest.  The most common forms are large folded "envelopes," but other forms do exist, including the box in the example below.  Click on thumbnails to see larger image and provenance/source. 

 


 

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