Iroquois Glass Wampum Bandolier Bag by Sandy Rhoades

Iroquois Glass Wampum Bandolier Bag


A Craft “Odyssey” by Sandy Rhoades

Last February, my brother Don Drefke bought a glass wampum strap on e bay for not very much, sent it to me and said – “You need this for your Iroquois clothes.”

Strap Finds a Bag in the British Museum

A couple of weeks later, I discovered a photo of a glass wampum bandolier bag that was in the British Museum. Well, I figured that my strap needed a bag, so – I order some glass wampum beads from Crazy Crow, get the wrong colors (my fault), they very nicely exchange them for the right colors, make a box loom for the big loomed piece, and start out.

The loomed piece is not too hard, and goes pretty fast, but when I get done, I discover that my attempted bead count off the photo is incorrect, and the design doesn’t come out. In the meantime I am told that dark background wampum belts sometimes represent negative or bad vibes, so I get discouraged.

In the meantime I start doing a little more research on the history of wampum and its’ use by eastern tribes, and find out that dark background wampum belts also are used for very important events and the like, so I decide to go ahead with my project. I re–do the 10 1/2″ square loomed piece – and get it wrong again!

Special Delivery to New York


I order some 1/2 inch tin cones from Crazy Crow, – they come in, and are the wrong size – mislabeled. It’s June, and Rex Reddick, my buddy and owner of Crazy Crow is coming to New York to sing at a dance in 4 days, so I call them – he brings the right cones to Red Hook, NY. and we swap. Much cheaper than doing all the mail routine.

Next, I have started looking at the strips around the loomed piece and figure out that they are done by bias weave, sometimes also called side stitch, so I start in on the widest piece, get it done eventually, and then do the other two pieces. Other craftwork projects get in the way, by now it’s summer and time for powwows and National OA stuff, but I get the loomed piece done for the third time – and get it right, so I get it mounted on the leather.

When I go to mount the bias weave pieces, I discover that they have to be started and finished – on the work/project itself, so I proceed to do that.

Wrapping Things Up . . . Six Months Later!

With everything else going on, I get them done about 3 weeks later, line the bag with some old time cloth, add the tin cones along with some red deer tail hair, and today – Labor Day, 6 months after I started this project, I have a finished Iroquois Glass Wampum Bandolier Bag of which I’m very proud.

My Iroquois headress – a Gustoweh, is finished, and I have been acquiring small silver work to add to my assumsion sash. Next will come a shirt, apron and leggings, and I will be getting close to having Iroquois clothes. I have learned a lot in the process, and am still learning. We never quit learning new things. Hope you enjoy my story.

Comments or Questions? Sandy Rhoades