Many Plateau tribes made flat beaded handbags, vests, and other items in the last quarter of the 19th century. The earliest known examples show horse imagery and floral designs as well as other subjects from the natural world. These designs were generally arranged in a simple fashion on light backgrounds.
By the turn of the 20th century, pictorial beadwork had become very popular, both for the Indians’ own use, and also to meet the demand of the ever increasing tourism market. Today, these items are collected both as Indian art and folk art.
The hide handbag shown here comes from the early 20th century and depicts a mounted warrior, probably a Nez Perce, who is wearing traditional period clothing including an eagle feather headdress, loop necklace, panel belt, and cloth leggings.
The Lakota were also famous for their pictorial beadwork from the early reservation period into the first quarter of the 20th century.