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Grizzly Claw Necklace

For my interests in reenacting history as well as for creating for museum exhibits and etc., I normally am recreating items used by French (and French-Canadians) in Wisconsin and North America. Often I am replicating American Indian items used by the French, but rarely do I make items that were exclusively used/worn by Indian peoples. This said, I recently had a project where I did just this. I recently created a big grizzly bear claw necklace that would be appropriate to a Sauk man ca. 1810-14.

For claws, I took deer antler and carved as well as boiled and bent them to make realtively realistic fakes. Prairie grizzlies are now extinct (the bear used on historic necklaces) and for other types of grizzlies, claws cost around $100 a piece. Antler fakes were a good substitute adn interestingly were used historically as well. There is prehistoric evidence of fake claws being fabricated and there are a number of 19th century necklaces like what I made that are also made of antler “claws.”

Once the claws were made, I made a wool fabric base to which they were attached. I then covered it with strips of otter fur and also added a secondary thong, running through a second hole in each claw. This thong was additionally spaced with old glass beads. Finally, I made an otter pendant for off the back.

Overall I am very pleased with how it turned out, but for a Sauk necklace, the pendant may not be quite right. According to Feder, THE pendant for Sauk and Mesquakie is the folded-tail style. He also states this is the height of evolution in this style of necklace and that Sauk and Mesquakie pendants had elaborate beaded panels on the top. I think this is based on the many later century and 20th century examples and the serious beaded panels are too late for 1810-14. You could even argue that the folded style may be a bit later, but the only early extant necklaces I know of have no pendants and none are Sauk or Mesquakie. Anyway, my main reason for the open-tail design was that I didn’t have enough of an otter hide to do one and I may make a new one eventually if I get another hide. I chose not to do the elaborate beading but rather a simple cut-ribbon design (utilizing diamonds as commonly see in motifs on beaded panels) to make it more appropriate to the earlier period.

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