Polynesian objects from early European exploration, £19.99
Length: 36.000 cm
From the collection of the Royal United Services Museum
AOA 1949.Am22.134.a, b
Room 26: North America
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From North America
19th century AD
This type of steel dagger, known as a beaver-tail knife or stabber, was used by the Métis (of mixed European and Native descent) and Blackfoot. They were imported through the fur trade, for instance from Sorby, a firm of Sheffield cutlers, to the Northern Plains. They were set in horn or antler handles, and, as here, were sometimes decorated with cartridge butts. A Métis woman would then create a skin sheath for her husband's dagger, decorated with the finest porcupine quillwork, here in loom-woven technique. In this way she would express her affection for her spouse, and the strength of the marital tie was reciprocated by the husband by the provision of European finery for her wardrobe.
The daggers were suitable for every task, particularly butchering, yet were also appropriate for hand-to-hand combat in which the intention was to stab in the belly, between the ribs or below the collarbone.