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Beadwork Masterpieces: Native American Bandolier Bags

Winnebago (Ho-Chunk)


The Winnebago lived near Green Bay on the shores of Lake Michigan during the 1600s but were forced westward during the 1820s and 1830s. In 1865 the Winnebago were moved to a reservation in northeast Nebraska. Many tribal members missed their homeland in Wisconsin and returned there. Today, many Winnebago people live and own land around Black Water Falls, Wisconsin, as well as in Nebraska. The Winnebago of Nebraska made most of the Winnebago bags in this exhibit. Several features characterize their bags:

  • Offset shoulder straps, identical designs on both sides of the strap
  • Similar or closely related bag and strap designs
  • Linear designs that are often repeated
  • Straight line fill-in appliqué floral elements
  • Short back panels that are only 25 to 50 percent the height of the beaded panel


Winnebago, about 1890
Winnebago, about 1890

Source: Loan from the Anthropology Division, University of Nebraska State Museum, Lincoln
[A73.1.111]

Winnebago, about 1900
Winnebago, about 1900

Source: Loan from the Anthropology Division, University of Nebraska State Museum, Lincoln
[A06239]

Winnebago, about 1900
Winnebago, about 1900

Source: Loan from the Anthropology Division, University of Nebraska State Museum, Lincoln
[A93.13.06]

Winnebago, about 1910
Winnebago, about 1910

Collection records indicate these bags were collected from a member of the Santee tribe at Niobrara in the early 1900s, although design elements are characteristic of Winnebago bags. Perhaps this bag was a trade item or the maker was influenced by the Winnebago style.
Source: B. Y. High Collection, courtesy of Alice Cobb, Santa Barbara, CA.
[8634-261]

1933 Winnebago powwow
1933 Winnebago powwow

Note the two boys at the front center with bandolier bags.
Source: Nebraska State Historical Society
[order photo] [RG2067-8-6]

Indian dancer Indian Brave Up to Date Indians

These photo-postcards, produced between 1910 and1919, feature Native Americans thought to be members of the Nebraska Winnebago tribe prominently displaying bandolier bags.
Source:  Images courtesy of Peter Bleed.



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Last updated 7 February 2005  

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