Two yarn medicine pouch: Thunderbird design, Iowa; Oklahoma circa 1875-1900
"The Central and Southern Plains tribes seem to have retained more of the weaving arts than did their northern neighbors--or at least they made greater use of weaving. Yarn bags, which were substituted for the earlier buffalo-hair medicine pouches, were particularly common among the Oto, Pawnee, Osage, Kansa and Omaha. During the tragic period of the removal of the Indian tribes from their homes in the East, many who lived in the Great Lakes area were resettled in the Central Plains, including the Winnebago, Potowatomi, Kickapoo, Sauk, Oto and several other remnant groups. They brought the knowledge of sash weaving with them, even though not in the quantity of production so characteristic of their earlier life. Today, only a few women still weave yarn bags; more continue to weave sashes, and a few have become mildly interested in undertaking more extensive types of weaving. But while these people tend to follow the same old time technique, they employ modern cordage, particularly commercial cotton twine."
"A favorite theme included mythological beings, most particularly the Thunderbird, either singly or in duplication; and the Great Underwater Panther, so important to these lake people. One regular pattern is to be seen in the decoration of these bags: just as in the case of the Nez Perce twined wallets, the Great Lakes fiber bags were also decorated with different designs on each side. Almost never does one find a bag with bilateral symmetry in design; normally, one side will have a zoomorphic or mythological design, and the opposite side will be woven in a geometric or linear pattern completely unlike it. Even when geometric designs are woven on both sides, the two will be different. These are usually executed on a central panel in brown on the natural buff color base; occasionally, but rarely this will be reversed. Colored lines, normally in red, were inserted at each end of the panels."
Text excerpts and photo from "Weaving Arts of the North American Indian" by Frederick J. Dockstader copyright © 1978, 1993.