A shoulder bag consists of a pouch suspended from a strap worn over the shoulder and across the chest. The introduction of shoulder bags by Europeans coincided with a time of major changes in Southeastern Indian culture. Shoulder bags worn by Creek and Seminole Indian men have always held a special fascination for scholars and collectors owing to their rarity and the scarcity of information concerning their provenance. They were worn from the eighteenth century until 1900 and have not been used since then. Many contemporary Seminole and Miccosukee people had no knowledge of their use until recently.
A precedent for the use of pouches by Southeastern Indian men can be inferred from Mississippian artifacts with figures incised on shell or embossed on copper. Many of these figures are shown wearing a breechloth and a long triangular pouch on the hip, held by a sash at the waist. Made of fur or feathers, these pouches had rectangular flap openings decorated with shell beads.
Shoulder bags, also known as bandoliers (also spelled bandoleers) or bandolier bags, were worn by British soldiers during the eighteenth century. They did not escape the notice of Indian men in Georgia, Alabama, and the Carolinas, who readily adopted this useful gear to hold their shot, tobacco, and ritual or other necessary items. By the nineteenth century, shoulder bags had become an essential part of the complete costume of Creek and Seminole leaders. The decoration and configuration of the pouch and strap were, however, uniquely Indian innovations, although European trade materials and techniques were used.
From a study of examples in museum collections and of those worn in portraits, at least four distinct types of Creek and Seminole textile