Bandoliers

The Seminole Nation Museum is happy to announce it's upcoming show "Mvskoke Bandoliers: Contemporary Seminole and Muskogee Art in Cloth" will be on display from February to April 30th, 2022. This exhibition features a variety of bandolier bags and other examples of ceremonial garments made by both Oklahoma and Florida Seminole and Muskogee tribal members. 

The introduction of bandolier bags by Europeans coincided with a time of major changes in Southeastern Indian culture. Shoulder bags worn by Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole men have always held a special fascination for scholars and historians owing to their rarity. They were worn from eighteenth century until 1900 and have not been used functionally since. Until recently, many contemporary Seminole and Muscogee people had no knowledge of their use.

Bandoliers were worn by British soldiers during the eighteenth century and their use was not lost on Native men in Southeast, who adapted them to hold their shot, tobacco, and ritual items. By the nineteenth century, bandoliers had become essential to Creek and Seminole leaders. The decoration and configuration of the pouch and strap were, however, uniquely Indian innovations, although European (and later, American) materials and techniques were used in their construction.

It took considerable time and effort to create a bandolier, so designs were carefully selected and represented traditional iconography from the Mississippian Cultural period, as well as plants, medicines, spiritual imagery, and animals (clans) important to the maker. Seminole and Creek bags in particular seemed to represent independent design interpretations of the bead work technique, free from European motifs popular during the time period.

Embroidered bandoliers of the nineteenth century served their owners well. On a purely practical level, they acted as containers for important personal belongings of men forced into fugitive existence. But they also reflected pride in dress and functioned as emblems of identity. Their carefully embroidered designs are a link to the once rich and artistic cultrual heritage of their ancient owners.

Mvskoke Bandoliers will feature work from the late Damian J. McGirt, a Seminole artisan who in his lifetime all but perfected the art of beading bandolier bags. McGirt was a Native American textile artist and Southeastern Indian clothing expert from the Okfuskee Tribal Community with over forty years of experience at mastering his craft.  The exhibition will also feature works by Brian Zepeda, a member of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Zepeda currently serves as the Seminole Tribes Liason between the Tribal Council and the Seminoles living around Naples, Florida. He is well-recognized and respected artist at Tribal Historian and has served as a consultant for History Channel, Discovery Channel, and National Geographic: Wild. Muscogee artisans Robin Fife Jenkins and Sandy Fife Wilson have loaned their works to the show as well, offering a few creative takes on the classic bandolier design.