Beadwork The Indigenous peoples of the Americas made beadwork for centuries prior to the arrival of Europeans in North America.
The First Beads • Seeds, beans and berries were most likely the first beads used, then shells in their natural state. • Later beads of shell and stone grounded and drilled by hand.
Tool Use • One of the Aboriginal tools which was used for drilling, called dawihai, was made from a shaft of wood two feet (61 centimetres) long and half an inch (1.27 centimetres) in diameter at the middle. • This dawihai could be twirled between the palm of ones hand. The drill point was made of jasper or flint and fastened to the shaft.
Different Styles and Variety of Beads Depending on the region and nation different materials were used for beading. Rainbow colored abalone shells from the Pacific. Opaque glass beads. Exposure to European glass beads in the seventeenth century gave the indigenous artists a new material for their beadwork.
Different Nations had Different Styles. • The Dakota used geometrical patterns almost excusively, while the Winnebago and Nez Perces people are noted for their animal and flower patterns.
The Flower Beadwork People • The Dakota and Cree people referred to the Red River Métis as the “Flower Beadwork People.” • That Métis beadwork was characterized by its decorative patterns and floral designs and was often found on their personal items such as moccasins, gloves and saddle bags.
European Influence • The European floral patterns were much different than the Métis designs. Girls in the mission schools of New France (current day Quebec) worked with European materials which included velvet, wool, glass, and metal beads
Beads Decorated… Glass beads were used to decorate clothing, vessels, tools, and weapons. Seed beads adorned bags, moccasins, hair ties, and other garments.
Beading Requires… Artists require design skills, creativity, patience and fine motor skills to work with small beads.
References White, Mary. How to Do Beadwork. New York: Dover Publications, 1972. Print. http://www.museum.state.il.us/ismdepts/anthro/beads/loom_weaving_lesson.html http://www.metismuseum.ca/exhibits/expressions/