Museum displays Plateau Indian bags

POSTED: 10:37 AM PST December 18, 2013 
BEND, Ore. -

Form follows function in this impressive display of more than 100 Plateau Indian bags. First made to carry roots and other foods gathered during seasonal rounds, these bags employed thousands of years of tradition, beautiful geometric patterns and intricate bead work.

For more than 10,000 years Plateau Indians maintained a lifestyle in direct harmony with their natural environment, moving  their camps based on the seasonal availability of plants and animals. During the “seasonal round” certain foods and plant materials were gathered and stored in wawxpa — flat, twined bags. The tightly woven bags were often decorated with intricate geometrical patterns.

With the introduction of beads into the region in the mid-1800s, Plateau Indians modified twined handbags by adapting the new materials into elaborately-decorated beaded bags. Using seed beads that are about 1/16th of an inch, new colorful designs of flowers, people and animals were achieved.

Woven With Tradition includes bags from the High Desert Museum’s Doris Swayze Bounds collection, as well as a glimpse into Arlene Schnitzer’s personal collection of beaded bags. The exhibit runs through March 2nd in the Brooks Gallery at the High Desert Museum. Presented with support from the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation.