Native American

Strawberry Purse

Artist: Samuel Thomas
Culture/People: Lower Cayuga Band of the Iroquois Nation
Place: Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
Media: Beads on forest green velvet
Dims: 9.5 x 7.5 x .5 in. (24.1 x 19 x 1.3 cm)
Date: x. 2003
RTC No.: NA1479
Gift of Edward J. Guarino Collection in memory of Edgar and Josephine Guarino, 2017


Strawberry Purse is an example of Haudenosaunee-raised beadwork. The purse’s design uses glass beads that create red strawberries, green leaves, and white strawberry flowers on a green velvet background. The Haudenosaunee (also known as the Iroquois Confederacy) is a group of six nations. Members today live in New York, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and North Carolina. 

This style of beadwork began in the 16th century with the introduction of glass beads that came from Europe. In the 19th century, Haudenosaunee artists sold their beadwork in places like Niagara Falls, Montreal, and Saratoga as souvenirs to support themselves and their families. Despite challenges, this enduring art form has persisted into the present and remains a beautiful and practiced tradition.

The purse is a contemporary piece of art by Samuel Thomas (Lower Cayuga Band of the Iroquois Nation). In 2016, Samuel Thomas was honored with the Ontario Arts Council Aboriginal Arts Award for his commitment to both his art and the promotion of Haudenosaunee beadwork. One notable project, ‘Opening the Doors to Dialogue,’ aims to bring Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples together to bead doors in an act of reclamation, healing, and reconciliation. This initiative included forty-two workshops across Ontario and Saskatchewan, where residential school survivors, their relatives, and members of the public learned beadwork techniques and applied them to doors from former residential schools.

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