During the 1800s many Southeastern native men wore shoulder bags made of wool cloth with elaborate designs of embroidered beadwork. Seminole artist Jay McGirt made this modern bag based on historical examples but with his own unique designs.
These beaded shoulder bags are sometimes called “bandolier bags.” A bandolier is a wide belt that soldiers wear over their shoulder with a pocket for ammunition that rests on the opposite hip. These shoulder bags were made by Indian people in the Great Plains as well as throughout the Southeast.
Seminole men carried numerous things in their pouches such as tobacco, flint and steel for making fires, and sometimes a whetstone for sharpening knives. The bags are usually made of wool and are beautifully decorated with many small beads. The Indians obtained the wool and beads from trading posts.
Different Indian tribes make their beaded bags in different ways. In the Southeastern United States, beadwork is typically curvilinear and makes use of negative space – in other words, the beads do not cover the entire surface. Some of the Seminole designs represent clans, some represent animals, others have other meanings.
Curator, South Florida Archaeology & Ethnography
Director, Randell Research Center
Florida Museum of Natural History
Seminole Shoulder Bag
Made by artist Damian Jay McGirt, Seminole, Oklahoma
Dates to 2003