Hawk Bell Bandolier
Updated: Oct 21
By Craig Jones
According to Howard Zinn, in The People’s History of the United States , when Christopher Columbus landed in the “new world” it was recorded that the Spanish sailors waded to shore to meet the Natives with beads and hawk’s bells in hand to begin trading relationships, and ultimately enslave the people they encountered. So, began a long and mixed history of trade goods from Europe.
Teton carries a number of bells and our new brass hawk bells are unique, have a great sound and a nice patina. These new bells inspired me to make a hawk bell bandolier. There are some historical photographs of this type of bandolier, but they are rare given the total number of bells that would be required to make one. The resulting sound and appearance is fantastic.
I assembled one of these bandoliers as a raffle item recently and wanted to document the process of making one. Using the 1/2" hawk bell from Teton, it takes approximately 5 bells to equal 1" of bandolier. Therefore a 60" bandolier will require 300 hawk bells. Often these were strung on hide lace, but for durability and not having it stretch, I chose 1/16" steel cable. The assembly is pretty easy. I clamped an alligator clip on the end of the wire to keep the bells from falling off the other end and then essentially strung them on. The video shows how they basically naturally nest on each other in a spiral pattern. Sometimes the cable needs to be shaken a little to get them to settle into each other. Continue this until you have achieved your desired length and then use a ferrule to crimp the two ends of the cable together and decorate the end to cover the wire and ferrule however you like. Reference my article on how to make a trade bead necklace for the technique to crimp the ferrule and finish the bare cable (see pages 6 and 7).
Video of stringing the bells.
Teton Trade Cloth 1/2" hawk bells
Photo of hawk bell bandolier on Lakota man. Photo found by John Butler.
Photo of Lakota man wearing a hawk bell bandolier. Photo found by John Butler.
Photo of Cree man wearing hawk bell bandolier. Photo found by Preston Miller.
Close up of Cree man wearing a hawk bell bandolier. Photo found by Preston Miller.
Cree man wearing a hawk bell bandolier. Photo found by Preston Miller.
Close up of strung antique hawk bells at 4 Winds trading post in St. Ignatius Montana
Hawk bells strung at the 4 Winds Trading Post in St. Ignatius Montana