Pouch; Otter skin; Indigenous Peoples, North America



This otter skin is formed into pouch, decorated with quillwork and brass or copper cones containing hair. The exact provenance is unsure, but it is possible it was a gift from Wabasha, Chief of the Mdewakanton band of the Santee Sioux, who frequently visited De Peyster at Fort Michilimackinac. The early incoming settlers and soldiers to North America brought with them diseases which ravaged the indigenous population, sometimes destroying whole communities. The Midawiwin, or Grand Medicine Society, was created amongst some of the Tribes in order to deal with the problem. Quilled otter skin pouches were commonly used among members of the society to hold sacred medicine, often tobacco, to ward off the diseases brought to their lands by Europeans. Wabasha was a member of the society and it is very likely that he would have gifted something this special to De Peyster, who he held in high regard.