Parfleche (Indian Suitcase), c. 1920
heavy rawhide, pigment, original condition
24" tall x 13.5" wide x 6" deep
A parfleche is a container that is embellished by painting, incising, or both. Envelope-shaped parfleches have historically been used to contain items such household tools or foods, such as dried meat. They were commonly made in pairs and hung from saddles. In contemporary usage, they may carry social, spiritual, and symbolic meaning, or be part of dance or parade regalia.
The bags are usually decorated with a distinctive style of graphic artwork, often symbolizing landscape features such as rivers and mountains. Historically women were the main creators of parfleches, first painting stretched-out raw hides, then shaping them into their final form.