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Native American Beaded Otter Bag


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Sauk N Fox otter bag. This one is from a trunk in Wichita, KS. This pelt bag was made from an entire otter - the neck is slit as the main opening for the bag with a cowrie shell drawstring - the tail and limbs decorated with cloth a beadwork. Whole animals were carefully skinned to retain their features and used to store precious healing and medicinal items such as tobacco. The healing society, Midewiwin, also used animal species to denote specific grades of initiation amongst members - the otter was one such animal. Men wore the bags with the head looped over a belt - the addition of bells and intricate beadwork added value to these already special pelts. The otter was a revered animal that could pass from land to water with ease that was admired and considered a powerful spirit. These bags were popular amongst the northern Woodlands, Midwest, and Eastern Plains tribes, and especially with those affiliated with Midewiwin society. In Anishinaabe traditional beliefs, the ancestral trickster and hero, Nanabozo, is the founder of Midewiwin. He entrusted Otter with saving sacred teachings and tools to cure the sick, such as tobacco.

PERIOD: 19th Century

ORIGIN: Kansas, United States

SIZE: 47" x 8"

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