Beaded Bandolier Bags

The beaded bandolier bag may have originated as an adaptation of European and American ammunition pouches. These distinctly Native objects were fashioned using exclusively European materials. Prized mainly for their decoration, beaded bandolier bags were worn on special occasions such as dances and treaty signings. Many were created as gifts for tribal or intertribal gatherings. The wearing of more than one such bag often identified a chief or other person of high standing.


Potawatomi Chief John Young wearing heavily beaded bandolier bag near Marshfield, WI
WHS Image ID 33313


Chief Cloud wearing ceremonial bandolier bag, Ashland County, WI
WHS CF 121.64

Ojibwe beaded bandolier bag, c. 1910
Gift of Mrs. Howard T. Green (1960.44.75)

Made in Wisconsin, this heavily beaded bandolier “bag” lacks an actual pouch; it is only in the form of a bandolier bag. With its enormous scale, wide straps, and extensive beading, this artifact was intended for ceremonial functions. Appliquéd glass beads on canvas and velvet cloth form multiple stem and leaf floral designs, typical of Ojibwe beading.

Ojibwe beaded bandolier bag, c. 1840
Gift of Lac du Flambeau head speaker Medwesang (1954.1545)

Compare the large bag to this much earlier Wisconsin Ojibwe beaded bandolier bag that has an actual pouch. Note the differences in scale and degree of decoration.