People of the Lakes
Bandolier bags originated with the Native
peoples of the Upper Great Lakes
during the mid-nineteenth century. Northern peoples who made
bandolier bags include the Ojibwe, Menominee, Potawatomi, and
Residents of the Great Lakes region
in the late 1600s, the Ojibwe gradually
expanded their territory to the north, south, and west. They
spread to northern Wisconsin, Minnesota, and southern Canada
by the mid to late 1800s. The earliest documented Ojibwe bandolier
bag is dated to around 1850. Bags peaked in popularity from the
1890s to the 1930s, after which most bandolier bag production
Bags from the 1880s and 1890s typically have a woven panel sewed onto the bag
and woven tabs beneath the bag. Designs on the tabs often bear
little relation to the design on the bag. Bag panel designs are
geometric, have mirror-image design elements, and usually are
based on an "X". Floral motifs often appear with veins
in the leaves. Pockets from Ojibwe bags from the 1870s to the
1880s are usually open nearly the full width of the bag.
A finger-woven bag of red and green yarn
with white beads.
Source: Betty, Bob, Ruth, and Reichert Shullaw, Lincoln.
Often made of red wool with green edging
with an appliqué border,
Ojibwe bags also show a "beavertail" motif on earlier
examples, and symmetrical appliqué floral designs on the
panel above the pocket. Ojibwe bags tend to have tall back panels
that are 50 to 100 percent the height of the beaded panel. Woven
beadwork panels decorate the straps. The designs on each strap
side were usually different, though often related.
Ojibwe, about 1875
According to collection records this bag
was acquired from the Yankton Sioux in the 1870s, although its
characteristics lead to an association with the Ojibwe. It is
possible that this bag was acquired through a trade.
Source: Loan from the Anthropology Division, University of Nebraska
State Museum, Lincoln.
Regarding trade, the Reverend Joseph A. Gilfillan, Episcopal
missionary to the Ojibwe on the White Earth Reservation from
1872 to 1898, stated in 1901:
"Most of the Ojibwe men
have their women make quantities of their beautiful bead-work
every winter and store it up. When summer comes the husband carries
it to the Sioux country, and brings back as many ponies as he
had tobacco-pouches (kashkibitangung). One of the bead-work pouches
is the great ornament of the Ojibwe, and any person wearing it
is considered to be in full dress: it is worth a pony among the
Ojibwe, about 1900
Source: Loan from the Anthropology Division,
University of Nebraska State Museum, Lincoln.
Aw ke wen zee, leader of the Ojibwe in 1854
Source: Photo by Martin's Gallery, Minnesota
photo] [MHS 36747, E97.1A/r17]
Ke-bay-nah-kay, about 1860, Leech Lake Ojibwe
Source: Photo by Charles A. Zimmerman,
Minnesota Historical Society,
photo] [MHS 33395, E97.1K/r6]
Ah-ah-shaw-we-kee-shick, about 1860.
Chief of the Rabbit Lake Ojibwe
Source: Minnesota Historical Society,
photo] [MHS 34184, E97.1A/r10]
Source: Photo by Hoard & Tenney, Minnesota
photo] [MHS 34175, E97.1O/r10]