There are thousands of tiny beads on this beautiful bandolier bag now on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in our exhibit We Are On Treaty Land. Curator Jaimie Isaac told us First Nations women originally decorated these bags with porcupine quills but later used beads from French traders. Jaimie said she had attended a workshop where you could learn how to make these bags but doing the beading is extremely hard and requires enormous skill. This particular bag was made by an unidentified Anishinaabe artist.
Although First Nations women made the bags they were worn primarily by men. The bags have a strap that goes across the shoulder.In the Ojibwe language the bags are called Aazhooningwa’on which means “worn across the shoulder”. The designs for the bags were copied from similar bags carried by Europeans. Jaimie told us some of the bandolier bags made by First Nations women had no pockets and were purely ornamental but others had pockets that were used for carrying ceremonial pipes and perhaps medicinal plants. Sometimes the bandolier bags were used to decorate horses. Jaimie said likely First Nations elders were wearing bandolier bags when they signed Treaty One with the Canadian government. Bandolier bags were objects of prestige. The We Are On Treaty Land exhibit is at the Winnipeg Art Gallery until May. Besides the bandolier bag you can see other incredible work by First Nations artists who were born or have lived on Treaty One land.