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From quills to beads: the bandolier bag

The video explores a shoulder bag crafted by a Delaware artist around 1840-1860 in Kansas or Oklahoma. The bag, known as a bandolier bag, showcases intricate beadwork and is part of Native American culture. It's made by women but worn by men, reflecting the rich history and traditions of the Delaware people.

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Video transcript

(jazzy piano music) - [Male Narrator] We're in the Newark Museum looking at a shoulder bag by Delaware artist. It was made about 1840, 1860 in either Kansas or Oklahoma. But what's interesting in that the Delaware were originally an east coast nation. - [Female Narrator] Their original territory is up along the Hudson and down the Delaware River so here New Jersey is at the core of their traditional territory. - [Male Narrator] And the Delaware were one of the Native American groups in North America that were in first contact with Europeans but this bag dates to centuries later. - [Female Narrator] The Delaware get pushed out of the eastern seaboard early on in the 17th century. By the period of the American Revolution, they are primarily in western Pennsylvania, the Ohio River Valley, and eventually there's a treaty that provides for a reservation in Kansas. But they also end up in Oklahoma. Delaware's a colonial term really. Governor of the territory attached to the Lanape after colonization. - [Male Narrator] We're seeing a type of bag that is often referred to as a bandolier bag and this is a type of object that is made by more than one nation. - [Female Narrator] The bandolier bag, also known as a shoulder bag, is common among Anishinaabe, Objibwa, Potawatomi, and also Delaware, Miami, Shawnee, it's sort of a common genre early on in the 18th century. An earlier style would've been made with quillwork on black buckskin. The basic structure is the same. They're made out of cloth. The strap in the back of the bag and sometimes the inside of the bag are lined with beautiful printed cotton cloth, usually referred to as a calico, coming from either England or even India originally. Part of that global exchange that really has expression in the 18th century. The bag is constructed in layers. The beadwork is often done on its own backing of trade cloth and then there is the calico backing behind it that is a decorative element. - [Male Narrator] And it's no surprise to me that this was a popular type of bag because they are spectacular. The bag in front of us is exceptionally beautiful with incredibly fine beadwork. - [Female Narrator] On the front, mostly what we see is the very bold beadwork. - [Male Narrator] The motifs are bold but organic. There's also a real geometry to them. - [Female Narrator] And so there's this whole aesthetic that has to do with dualities of upper worlds and lower worlds and other aspects that we may not know about but that really are seen through this aesthetic, this play with negative and positive space and so every element is really thought through with these configurations in mind. - [Male Narrator] And I think it's really important to remember that here in the gallery, we're not seeing the bag as it was intended to be seen. This is meant to be worn. It's meant to move through space and the conical tinklers would have produced a sound. There are bells at the end of the tassels and so this would've moved with its wearer and it would've made sound, it would've reflected light differently. It's worth remembering that while the bags were made by women, they were intended to be worn by men. - [Female Narrator] Like most artwork in Native America, it was made by women. (upbeat jazzy music)