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Highlights Archives

Native American Artistry on Exhibit


A graphic created for the 16-week exhibit, "Bandolier Bags of the Western Great Lakes" at the Wisconsin Historical Museum

This exhibit at the Wisconsin Historical Museum features 19th- and 20th-century Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Ho-Chunk and Menominee bandolier bags and highlights cross-cultural connections as well as distinct tribal characteristics. Bandolier bags of the 19th and early 20th centuries belong to a distinct art form bridging Euro-American and Native American traditions. Worn primarily as a part of formal dress, these bags may have been an adaptation of the shoulder bags or bullet pouches worn by British soldiers in the mid-18th century.

Centuries of Tradition

For centuries, Indians of the Great Lakes decorated objects with locally available materials such as shell, bone, coral, copper, wood and porcupine quills. With the introduction of Western trade goods in the 1600s, native artists began to incorporate new materials, including glass beads, into their craft traditions.

The earliest examples of bandolier bags date to the mid-19th century. Historical documentation suggests Native Americans wore bandolier bags on important religious, ceremonial and social occasions. They also gave the bags as gifts at tribal and intertribal gatherings to create and maintain relationships.

Beautiful and symbolic, bandolier bags are expressions of Native American artistic and technical skill, personal identity and cultural traditions.

If You Go

The exhibit runs through February 26. For more information on the museum's hours, location, admission, parking and other details, visit the museum's visitor information page.

:: Posted December 20, 2010

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