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Shoulder Bags

The Great Lakes and Eastern Woodlands frequently used bags with shoulder straps for utilitarian purposes. Some of the earliest examples of shoulder bags were made of deer or moose hide and were either painted and/or had quillwork. In the mid-1800s the bags began to lose some of their utility and the designs became more complex and intricate and the bags became larger (Swan 1998, 51). With the shift from utility, the now beaded bags began to have a different purpose. The Native Americans regarded them as “items of adornment and prestige, whose value increased with the quantity of beads used in their decoration and the more important investment of a woman’s creative talent and productive energy” (Swan 1998, 51).