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Crow Lance and Case.

I have a few comments to offer on Larry Belitz's article, Captured Crow Lance and Beaded Case in the last issue of Whispering Wind (42:4). Belitz states that the lance and "case were both captured from the Crows by a Lakota in 1840. The lance may well date to 1840 as there is no visible evidence to suggest otherwise. It is impossible to say the same for the "case."

The class of items referred to as "lance cases" are unique to the Crow. Their origin and original purpose are unfortunately unknown and likely to stay that way. Allen Chronister in the article Crow Parfleche Lances in Whispering Wind Magazine (26:4), very appropriately calls them "parfleche lances "and has the following to say on the origin and use of these items: "Among the Crow, parfleche lances were historically and still are used as horseback parade items by women and girls. There is no evidence that parfleche lances were ever carried by men. Beyond this, there is surprisingly little concrete evidence concerning the origin and age of these items (1994:5)." Elsewhere on the same page Chronister says, "... there is scant evidence that they were made as cases for any actual object, and the idea that these objects are sword or lance cases may be no more than thirty or so years old."

In 1980, Gary Galante wrote an article for American Indian Art Magazine entitled Crow Lance Cases or Sword Scabbards and effectively negates the title to his own article when he states: "It is possible that the design of Crow lance cases has always been symbolic. They are carried in parades by women with the aperture concealed beneath the saddle making it impossible to withdraw a lance. It is likely that few, if any, lance cases ever actually held lances (p. 68)." Galante also notes that, "It is significant that no quillwork or pony bead precursors of classic lance cases are extant ..." (p.67).

This last point is particularly relevant to Larry Belitz's article. Had this parleche lance been made in 1840 or sometime before that, it would not have been beaded with 16/o seed beads as Plains beadwork at that period was done with pony beads.

Finally, there is something odd about this parfleche lance. There is fading in the red wool of the tabs but the red wool binding on the shaft and the white leather thong holding it in place are remarkably bright and clean, as is the fringe, one might even say new looking. Regarding the fringe, Crow parfleche lances invariably have two lengths of fringe, one is relatively short, 6 inches or so along the top edge of the lance head, the other, along the bottom edge is typically a foot and a half or more. The parfleche lance in the current issue of Whispering Wind has fringe that is equally long on both sides of the head.

In conclusion, if this lance and parfleche lance are now a set, this is a result of some wishful thinking and possibly careless labeling by a curatorial assistant in Germany.

Lew Richards

via email

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Author:Richards, Lew
Publication:Whispering Wind
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:May 1, 2014
Words:520
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