Bandolier bag maker Sophia Smith and her husband, Episcopal lay minister Frederick W. Smith, spent most of their married years on the White Earth and Red Lake reservations. In 1877 they moved to Red Lake to establish an Episcopal mission there. The church at Red Lake was built in 1880 with $1,200 provided by Henry Whipple. The Smiths served at Red Lake until 1888, when Fred's illness compelled them to leave.
Bandolier bags, worn diagonally across the chest with the pocket resting on one's hip, were commonly made between the 1870s and 1920s in the Great Lakes region. Bandolier bags sometimes served the purpose of carrying personal items such as tobacco, but historically they seem to have been prized primarily for their decorative qualities and could be worn by any man or woman. They were generally worn on special occasions, including tribal dances, and treaty trips to Washington, D.C.
The MHS & SMM Whipple collections contain more than twenty bandolier bags. Bandolier bags are generally made of wool, and are usually decorated with glass beads in geometric and floral designs. While only bandolier bag #1520 is specifically ascribed to Sophia Smith, three characteristics of her work are seen in bandolier bags 1831 and 1498 as well as several other beaded objects in the Whipple collections. One characteristic is the half flower motif; the second is her net-like fringe made with bugle beads; and the third is her color palette.
Sophia's Father-George Eggy La Rush
Sophia's Mother-Sophi Chingwahnahquodo Chingwanahquodoq Laroc, b. 1833