Bandolier Bags: The Plants Became Allies


Beaded bandolier bag by Martha Berry

Winner: Grand Award, 9th Annual Cherokee Homecoming Art Show, Cherokee Heritage Center, Tahlequah, OK, October 2004.

Size: Approximately 36" H x 15" W x 2"D

Materials: All materials are authentic pre-1840 era. European glass seed beads, saved-edge stroud wool, silk ribbon, cotton calico, cotton yarn, brass trade beads.

The bandolier bag, entitled THE PLANTS BECAME ALLIES, is a tribute to the generous gift from the plants to the humans (see the traditional Cherokee story below). The bag includes all stages in the life of a plant . . . seed, vine, bud, blossom and full flower . . . growing in a counter-clockwise direction around the bag. From the spring green tassels at the bottom, upward to the autumnal gold edging at the top, the cycle of life is also seen.

All materials are authentic to the pre-1840ís era, the heyday of Southeastern Woodlands beadwork, as are the beading style and the techniques used.

The Origin of Disease

A Traditional Cherokee Story

Long, long ago, when the humans, plants and animals could still talk to each other, they maintained a delicate balance within their environment. Each division of this triumvirate gave to, and took from, the others in a fair way.

Then, one day, the humans invented weapons and discovered that they could use them to hunt very efficiently. They began to kill and kill and kill the animals, taking far more than they could eat and neglecting the important tradition of honoring the animalsí spirits. The humans were very pleased with themselves, indeed.

The animals, of course, were deeply troubled by this new practice and met to seek a solution to the problem. They talked and talked and talked, until their anger overtook them and they made a vengeful plan . . . the animals created disease. Each animal, in turn, named a disease, described the symptoms and the way in which the humans would contract it. The animals were very pleased with themselves, indeed.

The plants observed all of this and, in their wisdom, saw that the delicate balance of the triumvirate was destroyed. Knowing that this would bring an end to them all, the plants became allies to the humans. Each plant volunteered to give itself to cure a disease. If the humans were not able to understand which plant cured which disease, the plants agreed to reveal the cures to the humans.

This generous act restored the delicate balance, which continues today. For this, we are most grateful.