Object: Bag

E/1954/16/17
Ojibwe: Basketry Bag
North America
20th Century
Materials: bark, bulrush, vegetable dyes

This object is a basketry bag made by the Ojibwe (or Chippewa) people of the northern United States. It is made from tree bark and bulrush stems and measures approximately 5 by 5 inches. Two handles are attached to the bag and six tassels fashioned from bulrush are attached to the handles. Strips of bulrush are dyed with red, black, orange, and green vegetable dyes.

The Ojibwe nation is presently the second largest Native American tribe in North America. Traditionally, the Ojibwe occupied portions of southern Canada and the northern United States, through presently, Ojibwe land holdings are as far west as Montana. The name Ojibwe is thought to come from the word “otchipwa,” meaning “to pucker,” in reference to the puffed seam style of moccasin shoes the Ojibwe produced. The Ojibwe are known for their art of storytelling. Traditionally, stories belonged to individual storytellers and could not be retold without the permission of the storyteller. Usually, the storyteller received a payment of some sort for sharing the story. The storytelling season began with the first snow of winter and ended with the first thunderstorm of summer. Prior to European contact, this was the season Ojibwe people spent much of their time indoors seeking shelter during the cold winter months. Many Ojibwe living in the woodlands of southern Canada and northern United States lived in traditional waginogans, although bands of Ojibwe living in the northern plains used tipis. Birchbark was used to cover the wigwam dwellings, and when occupants moved, the birchbark was removed, rolled up, and carried to a new location to be used in the construction of another dwelling. The Ojibwe relied on hunting and gathering for sustenance and harvested wild rice and maple sugar as food staples. Bags such as the one pictured above may have been used to carry berries, nuts, or other foodstuff gathered from the woodland environment.

[Lauren Simons]

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