Copyright Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield, MA

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Otterskin Bag

This bag, believed to be Ojibwa from the Great Lakes region, is made from the furless skin of an intact otter. The skull served as a toggle so that the bag, which may have held medicine or tobacco, could hang from a belt. The bag is decorated with porcupine quills and metal cones, which originally held deer hairs. Following contact with European traders, Native Americans began incorporating metals such as brass, copper and tin into traditional objects in ways that reflected their own cultural preferences. Trade was the earliest form of contact between Indians and the Old World. Even Europeans who would never set foot in North America began smoking tobacco and wearing beaver felt hats. Both cultures integrated elements of the other into traditional forms and customs.

Date: late 18th century 
Topic: Ceremonial 
Materials: Otterskin, sinew, quills, tinned iron, deer hair
Dimensions: L: 31 in. (78.7 cm.), W: 7.25 in. (18.4 cm.) 
Accession #: IR.A.08

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