Bandolier Bags: Quantum Envy

Quantum Envy

Beaded Bandolier Bag by Martha Berry

• Winner: Second Place, Beadwork & Quillwork, Cherokee Art Market 2007

• Winner: Best of Category, Diverse Arts, 1st Annual Cherokee Holiday Art Show

Materials: Glass seed beads, wool, linen, cotton, brass trade beads

Size: Approx. 36”H x 16”W x 2”D

During the 1950s and 1960s, it was considered a social taboo to say your tribal blood quantum was more than one quarter. Thankfully, thought has shifted over the last half century. Today, the opposite is true, and it can sometimes be trendy to say you have a high blood quantum.

It is amazing that many still believe it is possible to predict a person’s character, motivation, loyalty, honesty, sobriety, and even religious and political preference, using a math problem so simple the average American fourth grader can solve it.

Few understand how blood quantum has been used, around the globe, to justify prejudice, persecution, ethnic cleansing and even genocide.


The bandolier bag, “Quantum Envy”, celebrates a blending of cultures. In its design, both Celtic knots and pre-European Mississippian symbols exist separately on the strap and pouch. On the pouch flap, however, each culture makes a complicated journey through several generations of DNA, finally appearing as one perfectly merged drop of blood.

The bandolier bag is constructed in the pre-Trail of Tears Cherokee beadwork style. Although this type of beadwork was popular among late 18th and early 19th century Cherokees, it became a lost art following the Removal to what is now Oklahoma.

To the extent possible, authentic early 19th century materials were used, including European glass seed beads, brass trade beads, wool stroud, linen and cotton. The techniques used are typical of Cherokee bandolier bags of that era.