Purple Beaded Bird
Glass beads were highly valued by the First Nations because they were durable and came in a wide variety of colors. Before glass beads arrived on the scene in the 1500s, the First Nations were accustomed to using pieces of bone, shell or rock to adorn their clothing. Quillwork using dyed porcupine quills was also popular. European fashion and trends in decoration influenced the Iroquois to adapt their ancient beading skills, their glass beads, and their tribal themes to Victorian preferences and tastes. They began to make “whimsies” – beaded birds, pincushions, picture frames, match holders, boxes, purses and trinkets to sell at or near Niagara Falls, and at other sites near their communities, at state fairs, train stations and public events. This became an important source of income for Iroquois families.