Plateau Indian Beaded Moccasins: LAPC

I’m featuring pictures of Plateau Indian beaded moccasins for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. The challenge this week is “A labor of love.”

After so much was taken away from Native Americans, creating beadwork became a labor of love. They preserved parts of their culture by decorating everyday items.

Plateau Indian beaded moccasins, High Desert Museum, Oregon August 2020

Prior to the European invasion of North America, Native Americans decorated their clothing with shells, porcupine quills, and bones.

Beaded footwear, High Desert Museum, Oregon August 2020

In the early years of European settlement, pony beads were often offered in trade. Seed beads became available in the late 1800s. Seed beads are smaller and come in a wider variety of colors compared to pony beads.

Beaded footwear, High Desert Museum, Oregon August 2020

Many of the designs used in the early years of beading were geometric. They generally included symbols important to specific tribes and regions.

Plateau Indian beaded moccasins, High Desert Museum, Oregon August 2020

Techniques for applying the beads varied. One technique involved threading several beads onto a thread. Thread on a second needle tacked these lines of beads onto the material.

Plateau Indian beaded moccasins, High Desert Museum, Oregon August 2020

By the late 1800s, realistic designs became more common. For example, patterns often included local flowers and wildlife.

Footwear, High Desert Museum, Oregon August 2020

In the early 1900s, more types of beads were available and designs became more elaborate. Interest in buying beadwork increased. As a result, designs changed to include marketable patterns, including American flags.

Children's footwear, High Desert Museum, Oregon August 2020

These Plateau Indian beaded moccasins, displayed at the High Desert Museum like works of art, showcase the skills of their makers.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – A Labor of Love

Beaded bags: LPM Photo Adventure

These beaded bags are some of my favorite works of art. The bags are part of a display at The Museum at Warm Springs. In this region, work with beads began in earnest in the early 1800s. The beads, created in the glass shops of Venice, Italy, were transported across oceans, mountains, and plains. Settlers, trappers, and explorers used them in trade.

When you look at these photos, you will notice something becoming more clear in the background. Right across from this display, there is a modern-day image showing members of the three tribes that live on the Warm Springs Reservation. You can see their reflections in my photos of the bags. It was almost as if they were looking over my shoulder making sure I noticed their presence.

This museum features parts of their history you probably didn’t learn about in school. It also shows their resilience and celebrates their heritage. These beaded bags are a part of their culture that preserve moments worth remembering.

Horse & eagle beaded bags, Warm Springs, Oregon 25 October2019
Deer & eagle beaded bag, Warm Springs, Oregon 25 October2019
Scene on horseback on bag, Warm Springs, Oregon 25 October2019
Scene canoeing on bag, Warm Springs, Oregon 25 October2019
Beaded bag with horses, & birds, flowers,  Warm Springs, Oregon 25 October2019

For more images of beaded pieces from my past posts, see beadwork.

Little Pieces of Me (LPM) Photo Adventure – Reflections

Beautiful Beadwork – OWPC: Museum

Messages communicated without words

I am always amazed by the beautiful beadwork on display at the High Desert Museum where I volunteer. The carefully crafted pieces represent work by tribes of the Columbia Plateau in parts of modern-day Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

Beautiful Beadwork at the High Desert Museum 25February2018Tribes represented include Umatilla, Wasco, Wishram, Paiute, Washo, Chehalis, Quinault, Nez Perce, Skokomish, Chinook, Tillamook, Yakima, Warm Springs, Haida, Salish, Yaqui, and others.

Doris Swayze Bounds Collection of Native American Artifacts

They are artifacts with an emphasis on “art.” However, Native Americans in the 1700’s and 1800’s did not make art for art’s sake. Beads embellished utilitarian pieces.  Beads adorned items ranging from small handbags and knife cases, to deerskin clothing and footwear.

Beautiful Beadwork at the High Desert Museum 9December2015The High Desert Museum houses the Doris Swayze Bounds Collection of Native American Artifacts. Born in 1904 in Oklahoma, Doris Swayze Bounds later lived in Hermiston, Oregon, where she worked as a banker. She always appreciated Native American people and their culture. Many of the pieces in the collection were gifted to her by local Native Americans as a way of showing their respect and affection to her. The artifacts date from the 1870’s to the 1960’s. The collection has many pieces, but I focused on the beadwork in this post.

A brief history of beadwork in North America

In the early 1800’s, beads used in trading with native people were referred to as “pony” beads. Transported by pack animals, the beads were limited in availability and colors. The smaller “seed” beads became widely available after about 1850. These inexpensive beads were available in larger quantities and in a wider variety of colors.

White traders thought of the beads as cheap trinkets but to native peoples, they were highly prized. The beads were valued for their beauty and durability. They also freed up time that would have gone into crafting beads from bone, shells, and other materials. The beadwork became a status symbol and a source of pride in their culture.

Beautiful Beadwork at the High Desert Museum 25February2018Bead-working techniques vary and show ethnic membership. Colors and motifs represent different things to different tribes. If symbols are changed, such as being inverted or assembled in incorrect colors, they may show a hidden negative message. For example, an inverted American flag could have expressed displeasure with governmental policies.

Beautiful Beadwork at the High Desert Museum 25February2018Expressions of cultural pride

The beadwork is this collection is beautiful but some pieces were made during a dark chapter in American history. The hardships native peoples endured are difficult to imagine. Beadwork allowed them to express pride in their culture when they were being forced to give up their traditional ways of life.  We are fortunate that some of their remarkable work has been preserved.

To view more of this collection and learn about Native American’s many accomplishments and challenges, visit the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon

Beautiful Beadwork at the High Desert Museum 25February2018

Source of beadwork history information:

Logan, M. H. (2014). Brightly Beaded: North American Indian Glass Beadwork [Pamphlet]. Knoxville, Tennessee: University of Tennessee, McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture.

One Word Photo Challenge – Museum