Parfleche refers to containers made from rawhide, often from the buffalo or elk. The word parfleche derives from the French words "parer" meaning "parry" or "defend", and "flèche" meaning "arrow", so called because the hide was tough enough to be used as a shield. Historically, these containers were made and used by the nomadic peoples of the Plains for transport and storage of food and belongings. The designs and colors painted on the parfleche to decorate them were often reflective of the tribe. Today, artists are using traditional and contemporary designs and using either traditional mineral/vegetal paints or contemporary acrylic paints.
Parfleche is prepared by removing the hair and cleaning the skin of the buffalo and then stretching it and allowing it to dry in the sun. This process creates a stiff and hard leather that is used to create these durable containers. Decorative trade cloth often adorns the finished edges and seams of the parfleche.