Bandolier bags are elaborately decorated
shoulder bags most commonly made
by Native peoples of the Prairies and Upper Great Lakes, from
southern Canada to Kansas. The bags are thought to have originated
around the 1840s or 1850s. Few were made after the 1940s, although
they are occasionally made today.
Bandolier bags have a wide, beaded shoulder
strap and a rectangular lower section
that sometimes has a pocket. They were made primarily for show,
although they were sometimes used to carry belongings. Some late
nineteenth/early twentieth-century bags have false pockets, pocket
openings that were too small to fit a hand, or no pockets at
all. Such bags were made for fashion, not function, and could
be an indicator of the wearer's status and wealth.
Usually worn one at a time over the
shoulder and across the body, the
bags were sometimes draped over the neck, hung over a saddle
or horse's neck, or worn several at a time.
Traditionally worn by men, the bags appear in photographs being worn by
women as well.
Different tribes had stylistic preferences
for decoration. Trade, tribal movement,
and increased contact between tribes and Europeans may have
led to the sharing of techniques and to the similarity of bags
attributed to different tribes.