beadwork01a
Beaded bag (side one)
1 of 30
beadwork01b
Beaded bag (side two)
2 of 30
beadwork02a
Octopus bag (side one)
3 of 30
beadwork02b
Octopus bag (side two)
4 of 30
beadwork03a
Beaded bag (side one)
5 of 30
beadwork03b
Beaded bag (side two)
6 of 30
beadwork04a
Beaded bag (side one)
7 of 30
beadwork04b
Beaded bag (side two)
8 of 30
beadwork05a
Beaded bag (side one)
9 of 30
beadwork05b
Beaded bag (side two)
10 of 30
beadwork06a
Beaded bag (side one)
11 of 30
beadwork06b
Beaded bag (side two)
12 of 30
beadwork07a
Pipe bag (side one)
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beadwork07b
Pipe bag (side two)
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beadwork08a
Pipe bag (side one)
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beadwork08b
Pipe bag (side two)
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beadwork09a
Pipe bag (side one)
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beadwork09b
Pipe bag (side two)
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beadwork10a
Mirror bag (side one)
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beadwork10b
Mirror bag (side two)
20 of 30
beadwork11a
Cloth bag (side one)
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beadwork11b
Cloth bag (side two)
22 of 30
beadwork12a
Woven beadwork (side one)
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beadwork12b
Woven beadwork (side two)
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beadwork13a
Beaded pouch (side one)
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beadwork13b
Beaded pouch (side two)
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beadwork14a
Strike-a-light pouch (side one)
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beadwork14b
Strike-a-light pouch (side two)
28 of 30
beadwork15a
Beaded pouch (side one)
29 of 30
beadwork15b
Beaded pouch (side two)
30 of 30

View the entire gallery or click on the above images to enlarge.

Native people of the Great Plains are as famous for their beadwork as they are for their emphasis on horses and the buffalo hunt. The expansion of the fur trade in the 18th century spread guns and other trade goods. It combined with the northward movement of horses of Spanish origin from the Southwest to precipitate population movements and transformations that would reshape the Native American West. After 1860, when seed beads in many colors became widely available, together with steel needles, knives and awls, stylistic diversity increased dramatically. The multitude of tribal origins and contacts is reflected in identifiable stylistic traditions, each with characteristic techniques, motifs, and colors.

People of the Columbia Plateau traditionally relied on salmon, roots and local game. Acquisition of horses around 1730 promoted expeditions across the Rockies to hunt buffalo, and eastern Plateau groups like the Nez Perce intensified existing connections with neighboring Plains Tribes. Thus Plateau beadwork shares a Transmontane geometric style with the Crow, long-time allies. Designs emphasize panels or bands divided by transverse stripes containing smooth hourglass or triangular forms in pastel colors, against a light blue or lavender pink background. A second Plateau beadwork tradition depicted floral motifs, first stylized, later more realistic, and images of people, animals, landscapes, and other contemporary themes were added in the late 19th century.

Beading was historically women’s work in Native Plains and Plateau societies. Both women and men gained respect when their families were well-dressed, women for industriousness and artistry and men as hunters and providers for supplying the skins. Often girls learned to bead from an older relative or other elder. The examples shown here represent a sample of Plains and Plateau beaded bags and pouches from the Museum’s collections. Photography by Chris White, text by Pam Endzweig, web development by Keith Hamm and Fazil Parappurath. Images © UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History. Production of this gallery was generously supported by The Ford Family Foundation and a grant from the Oregon Cultural Trust.

Further Reading:

Dubin, Lois Sherr
1999    North American Indian Jewelry and Adornment. Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, N.Y.

Brasser, Theodore
2009    Native American Clothing: An Illustrated History. Firefly Books, Ltd, Buffalo, N.Y.

John M. Gogol
1985    Columbia River/Plateau Indian Beadwork. American Indian Basketry and other Native Arts No 18.

Mary D. Schlick and Kate C. Duncan
1991    Wasco-Style Woven Beadwork -- Merging Artistic Traditions. American Indian Art Magazine. 16(3):36-45.