Category Archives: Native art

Metis beadwork

Beautiful Metis beadwork and its origins

Metis mocassins

Vintage Metis beaded moccasins

Happy Sunday everyone!

I am not sure where everyone of you reading this are but it is a gorgeous warm and sunny day on the West Coast of Canada πŸ™‚ So I thought I would share some beautiful bead work with you! Today, I want to focus on the Metis bead work. I have discussed the Metis Nation as well as their sash in a different post. In a nutshell, what you need to know is that Metis people are of mixed ancestry, typically European and Indigenous (often Cree and Ojibwe). However, being of mixed ancestry does not make one Metis. The Metis culture is a unique culture, born out of a mix of ancestries. Therefore, it is a culture in itself. To be Metis, one has to have an heritage that includes this particular culture.

Metis people and their bead work

Metis beaded pouch

Metis beaded tobacco pouch- Beadwork by Lawrence Barkwell

Metis art is greatly influenced by both European and Native cultures. However, the Metis people have often influenced Native art, so much so that oftentimes, their art would be mistaken for Native art. It is thought that the Metis people actually introduced bead work to some Native nations such as Cree and Ojibwe, who took a liking to it and included it in their designs.. Nonetheless, sometimes credit for their work was given to Natives. Also, as European were more inclined to and demanding to buy “real Native art”, Metis people would sell their art to Native people who would resell it to the Europeans. Sad in a way that their culture was not recognized. And it also caused confusion as to the origins of bead work.

Nonetheless, Metis people were known as the “Flower Beadwork people” They would often do symmetrical floral patterns on a dark background (dark blue and black being the most common) using glass seed beads. They would even decorate their horse and saddle. Their work was traded all over North America and Europe. The floral bead work was used on anything they would wear like jackets, boots, moccasins, gloves, pants and vests. The floral bead work became synonym to the Metis people and a source of pride. They would also do floral silk embroidery, which they were introduced to by the Ursuline nuns (from Europe).

Meaning and themes in the Metis bead work

Beadwork on moosehide

Beadwork on Moose Hide, Alaska, Nov 2014

Some might wonder what the meaning of the bead work is. Well the floral designs are usually connected with stems as on the picture on the right. It is also at times influenced by the Ojibway principle of always representing four different parts of the plant, or four stages of vegetation. For example, the bead work will often include seed, leaves, buds and fruits or flowers. Or stems, leaves, buds and flowers.

If you think about it for a second it makes sense. Indeed, a lot of principles within the Native culture come in 4. Think of the four quadrants of the medicine wheel, representing our four sides, the four stages of life, the four directions. This would be the Metis equivalent if you will. Metis people are also taught to bead a mistake in their work to protect them from vanity. As only the Creator can make something perfect.

Alternatively, you will also sometimes see an X design in the pattern, again representing something similar to the concept of the four cardinal points, the four directions. However, not all designs are symmetrical. As long as they are balanced, just like the female and male energies balance each other. Reconciling opposites to find harmony.

If you take a look at the tobacco bag above, you will be able to see that it contains four quadrants, all connected by the stem. You will also see the out of place orange bead on the top left flower, the “mistake”.

The Metis Octopus bag

Octopus bag

Octopus bag

Yes that is a weird name. But if you look at the one on the right, I think the name will make sense to you. Octopus bags were originally known as “fire bags” as Metis people would use them to carry flint and steel to start fires. They also carried ammunition, tobacco and pipes. They are based on the animal skin bags originally made by the Algonquins (I won’t post a picture here….You can pretty much imagine an animal as a bag and that would be it). The fire bags are thought to originate from the Lake Winnipeg area and migrated as far as to the Tlingit people of the Northwest coast. And well the bag had 8 legs or pendants or 4 double pendants and became known as the octopus bag. With time, the octopus bag migrated to the Red River Settlement and then the Northern Cree. Before long, it was a hit!

I think it certainly looks cool and I could see myself having one. I tried hard to find where can one buy Metis beaded bags. However, they are not easy to find, especially, as I mentioned above, the origins of the bags are not always clear. You can check out this Etsy page for beaded bags, including medicine bags that I personally have (this one for example). Or try a local Metis artist. I am lucky to have one near where I live. I have mentioned him before (go in my Resources section), you can check him out here. I leave you with those 2 wonderful octopus bags πŸ™‚

All my Relations

 

Metis octopus bag

Octopus bag

Beadwork by Lawrence Barkwell

For more info on the Metis People, their work and history, see this Amazon link.

Native American Bandolier Bag

The Bandolier Bag

Seminole bandolier bag

Seminole bandolier bag

Hello everyone!

I recently learned more about those wonderful, beautifully beaded Native American bags, called bandolier bags. I mean the details and amount of work on those bags are just incredible! Just like theΒ  Seminole bandolier bag on the right. One can safely assume that numerous hours were spent on beading this bag… Let’s look at the origins of the bandolier bag.

 

Origins of the Bandolier bag

Where do those beautiful bags come from? Well most of them were made in the second half of the 19th century into the beginning of the 20th century. But some are still made today. Natives from the Great Lakes region (some ended up being traded to Plains nations later on) originally copied them from bags carried by European soldiers (they would put their ammunition in them). They originally were solely decorative and did not have any openings. With time, a slit was added. They were made by women for men to wear during ceremonies and dances. The Bandolier bag is then a ceremonial bag in a sense. It is not meant to be used in every day life to carry your things.

So what is the Bandolier bag for?

obijwe bandolier bag

Ojibwe bandolier bag

As one can see the Native American bandolier bags are quite ornate. The beadwork on them is exquisite and glass seed beads were originally used by the women making them. Wool, velvet or leather were the chosen materials for the bag itself. Women either used spot stitching (one bead added at a time using a piece of thread) or loom beading (using a wooden loom). it was labor intensive and basically a labor of love! Just look at the details on the Obijwe bag on the right!

Loom deaded bandolier bag

Loom beaded bandolier bag

spot stitched bag

Spot stitched bandolier bag

Designs did vary slightly (the Cree-Ojibwe bags being somewhat slimmer) but bandolier bags were meant to be worn by men, the beaded strap placed diagonally across the shoulders (so it would sit at hip level). They were considered to be an object of prestige and status, especially if a man wore two at a time, like the men in the pictures below. It becomes a decorative piece in itself. Just gorgeous!

bandolier bags in ceremonies

Men at a dance, wearing bandolier bags

Men at a dance, wearing bandolier bags

Different styles

Looking at different pictures, one can notice that different nations have different bead work or slightly different styles of bandolier bags. Below you can see the Cree bag on the right (quite slimmer and with the typical Cree 5 petal flowers on it) and the Shawnee bandolier bag on the left (quite larger, straps being wider).

Shawnee bandolier bag

Shawnee bandolier bag

cree bandolier bag

Cree bandolier bag-19th century

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, the Cherokee bag below is just unique in its details and tassels and ornate. While the Chippewa (Ojibwe) and Cree nations often have similar designs, the bag below is certainly one of a kind.

Chippewa bandolier bag

Chippewa bandolier bag

cherokee bandolier bag

Cherokee bandolier bag

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, I thought I would mention that the Metis nation is also known for its beading work on bags and clothing. Some say that Cree and Ojibwe nations were introduced to beading by the Metis. It will be the topic of an upcoming post. Stay tuned!

For those of you who would like to have a bandolier bag, you can still find some today. However, you will have to pay, as they will be vintage. You can check out this Etsy shop for great ones. Another Etsy shop also has great options as well as other native authentic products.

All my Relations


Native American Tattoos

Great Native American tattoos

Hi all! If you follow me on Facebook, you know I sometimes post pictures of cool looking and well drawn Native American tattoos. You might not all agree, but I see those tattoos as works of art. Some are so detailed and realistic, you would think you are looking at a picture or a painting. Tattoos can be a sensitive topic, I am aware of that. As not everyone likes them or agrees with them. As with everything, I try to keep an open mind. Speaking from personal experience, tattoos often mean something special and unique to the individual. Yes, some will decide to get a cool looking picture they like tattooed on them. However, I don’t know about you but the tattoos below seem to have been thought through and to have a special meaning to the ones sporting them. I know mine all have a meaning, representing, for example, different times in my life, symbolizing my values, my beliefs or the struggles I have been through. Therefore, reminding me of my strength, as I am here today. I survived. Although they might offend some, they tell a story. A story that I like to be reminded every day. A friend of mine gave me a good analogy not too long ago. It went something like that (I modified it slightly). They say that our body should be our temple. Then what’s wrong with putting a bit of paint on it? πŸ˜‰

If you do not like tattoos, enjoy the pictures below for what they also are. Art. Art depicting a story, a past, values and beliefs. Enjoy!

P.S. Looking at the images below, you might have some questions. Feel free to comment below! Also for my post on a great chief and warrior, click here. For my post on dreamcatchers and their meaning, click here. For my post on women warrior and the women’s warrior song, click here.

Indian headress tattoo

Indian headress tattoo

Bear-woman tattoo

Bear-woman tattoo

 

 

 

 

 

 

woman warrior

woman warrior

Women warrior tattoo

Woman warrior tattoo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

native american indian girl-look at the details!

native american indian girl-look at the details!

Woman's shoulder dreamcatcher tattoo

Woman’s shoulder dreamcatcher tattoo

 

dreamcatcher on leg

Dreamcatcher on leg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dreamcatcher on the inside of the arm

Dreamcatcher on the inside of the arm

Braid and feather tattoo-Very unique

Braid and feather tattoo-Very unique

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

West Coast style bird tattoo

West Coast style bird tattoo

look at all the details!

look at all the details!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Native chief portrait tattoo

Native chief portrait with animals

Indian chief with crow

Indian chief with crow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back piece

Back piece

1na_variety_468x123.jpg