M1879 | Bag

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Anonyme - Anonymous
Eastern Woodlands
Aboriginal: Anishinaabe?
1800-1820, 19th century
Basswood, vegetable fibre, hide thong, wool yarn
28.5 x 29.5 cm
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Bag (239)
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Keys to History

Aboriginal women living in the Great Lakes region used thick fibres taken from the inner bark of basswood trees to create bags and mats. This soft bag is made using a technique widely employed by the Anishinaabe in the manufacture of textile containers- twinning. The most simple type of twined textile consists of bags in which parallel warps of basswood fibre are held together by spaced wefts of twining using nettle or cotton threads. Basic designs are formed by alternating colours and spacing the basswood warp elements. This bag displays additional complex methods that were achieved by warp crossing (alternate pair twining) and by adding purely decorative warp elements of variously coloured wools on top of the structural warps.

Plain or striped bags like this one were usually made for utilitarian purposes - to store or transport food and possessions. However, many similarly twined bags now in museum collections incorporate complex geometric or representational design motifs that symbolize the power of manitos and their celestial counterparts, such as Thunderbirds and Underwater Panthers. These bags were most likely used as containers for medicine and war bundles, which held collections of ritual objects.

  • What

    This soft bag is twined using fibres taken from the inner bark of basswood trees. The artist employed the technique of spaced alternate-pair weft twining to create the bag. Colorful wool fibres were added on top of the structural warp threads.

  • Where

    The techniques and materials used to make twined soft bags have a wide distribution around the Great Lakes region. It is often difficult to establish a more precise origin for specific bags, as is the case with this example in the McCord collection.

  • When

    As this bag is made of basswood fibres and ornamented with trade wool, it probably dates to the early 19th century. Commercial yarns gradually replaced plants fibres in the production of more recent soft bags.

  • Who

    Soft bags made by the technique of alternate-pair twining with spaced wefts was developed to perfection by the Anishinaabe and their neighbours in the region of the Great Lakes.