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Vintage Sioux Beaded Medicine Bag
This is a beautiful vintage Sioux medicine bag made of intricately beaded cowhide. Bags like this one would have been used by Native American shamans to carry items they believed to have supernatural powers.
For centuries, the Sioux have been renowned for their intricate and unusual beadwork. Designs were typically symmetrical and geometrical in shape and often included triangles as a central motif.
By the late 19th century, Sioux craftsmen were creating styles and designs unlike those of any other tribe.
Before glass beads were introduced to the Plains-people by traders, Sioux craftsmen used dyed porcupine quills to decorate objects.
This bag features a slightly more modern glass bead, dating it to approximately the 1960s to 1970s.
Each bead is similar in shape and size whereas older beadwork is characterized by beads of inconsistent shape.
This body of this extraordinary medicine bag is completely covered in hand-stitched glass beads.
Yellow beads pervade, covering most of the bag, while brilliant, lapis-blue beads create a simple but typically Sioux pattern in the center of the bag.
The flap is also embellished along the edge with a series of blue and yellow beads which create a stepped geometric pattern.
The flap is held in place with a button that has been created with a hammered, 1929, Buffalo Nickel.
A fringe of soft leather strips hangs from the bottom of the bag. Each is decorated with a "tinkling cone" made of rolled dark sheet metal.
The Sioux developed the technique for making the cones as early as the 1600s. The ornaments are called "tinkling" cones for the chiming sound they make when they strike one another.
A long strap at the top of the bag is made from the same soft leather as the fringe. However, the bag is made from a stiffer cowhide in a slightly darker color. This leather is still pliable but is a bit dry.
The tougher leather shows a bit of oxidization and discoloration on the reverse.
The Buffalo Nickel and "tinkling cones" also show some patination, though this is to be expected and commensurate with the age of the piece.
Overall, the medicine bag remains in very good vintage condition. It is a wonderful example of Sioux decorative arts.
Measurements: Total length (top of strap to bottom of fringe) is 20", Bag is 4 7/8" tall (approx. 9" w/ fringe), 2 1/8"-3" wide and approx. 3/8" thick, Strap is 23 ¾" long and ¼" wide Weight: 56.7 grams (2 oz)
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