Object: Bag

Comanche: Beaded Bag
North America
20th Century
Materials: Seed beads and leather

This Comanche beaded tanned white leather bag was used for hunting. The Comanche tribe is one of many tribes that comprise the Plains Indians. See map below for reference. For Plains tribes bags were used to transport and store many different types of game. The Plains tribes would adorn bags and pouches with geometric beadwork designs. This bag is made of white, yellow, red, blue and green seed beads which were applied by lazy stitch in geometric, rectangular patterns. The seed beads were applied to the white tanned leather. Attached along the top and sides there are metal jingles with yellow hair tassels.

Glass bead manufacture had been going on for hundreds of years before Plains tribes were introduced to them. By the 1500s, beads had become readily available by the Venetians. The first recording of the introduction of trade beads to the Americas dates back to Christopher Columbus on October 12, 1942. It is believed that trade beads were introduced to certain groups of Native Americans by Coronado in 1540 when he was searching for gold. Plains tribes were not introduced to trade beads until the 1800s. By the middle 1800s there were huge numbers of seed beads ready to be traded or bought by the Plains Indians. With the introduction of beads the Plains tribes moved from the traditional art form of quillwork to adorning clothing, tipis, bags and any other items which were of personal value with beads.

Plains women were responsible for the beadwork. The art form of beadwork was a way in which the women could gain prestige, as men did this through warfare. Beadwork gave women more power and an immense pride in their art. Plains women created beadwork in geometric designs, which required a lot of thought. This has been said to be attributed to the abstract way that Plains women thought. Beadwork was as important to Plains women as was the ritual dances which the Plains men participated in. The women who were doing beadwork have left a lasting impression of the Plains tribes’ cultures through their art, through their beadwork. While this art form began in the 1800s for the Plains tribes, there are many who still practice beadwork. Now, Native American women as well as men take part in creating beautiful, intricate beadwork.

[Heather Ratliff]

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Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.


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