British Museum collections, £12.99
Length: 45.000 cm
Gift of Mrs Harry Beasley
Room 26: North America
Algonquian, about AD
From the Great Lakes, North America
The skin of the deer was dyed black with walnut or iron, and decorated with quillwork, beadwork, ribbon work and hair-filled sheet metal cones.
Pouches like this were worn at the waist tucked into belts. 15 examples are known. It is possible that some were brought to Ontario by people from the United States coming (until the 1840s) to receive annual payments from the Crown as ancient allies of the British from before the American Revolution and War of 1812. The tabs may be intended to suggest the legs of earlier forms of bags consisting of whole animal skins. These may have been used as pipe bags or medicine bags. It is also possible that the figurative designs may represent personal spirit helpers.
One side of the pouch is decorated with Thunderbird, a powerful sky-being clutching a mammal, perhaps an otter. Christian Feest has suggested that the other side perhaps shows a beaver, a creature associated in some Woodlands mythology with bringing mud from the bottom of the sea for the creation of the world on the turtle's back.
J.C.H. King, First peoples, first contacts: (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)