Object: Moccasin Boots

E/2006/1/2
Moccasin boots
Native American: Crow
United States: Montana
Ca. Late 1800’s or early 1900’s
Leather, sinew and glass beads

These Crow moccasin boots (each 12” H x 9.75” L x 3.25” W) are made of tanned bison skin and have a dark brown rawhide sole that is attached without a welt (a long, thin piece of leather that is normally included in moccasins to reinforce the seams). The top of the foot section on each boot is decorated with brightly colored beadwork in the form of an orange flower while similar orange and light blue beaded flowers appear on the upper portion of the boots. There are leather “laces” on each boot at the top of the foot and then around the upper section of the boot near the shin.

The word “moccasin” comes from an Algonquian word. It became the popular word to use for this type of footwear because the Algonquians were the first Native Americans encountered by Europeans, but each tribe has its own native word for their footwear. For instance, the word for                                                                     “moccasin” in Crow is “Huuptaheele.”

The Crow are a wide-spread people who originally lived on the Great Plains in what is now Montana and Wyoming. Most Crow today still live in Montana.

Native-made moccasins and boots vary dramatically from tribe to tribe in their style, decoration, materials, and methods of manufacture. These moccasin boots were likely made for a Crow woman to be worn along with a traditional buckskin dance dress outfit. This type of outfit consists of a partially beaded skirt, a top with little to no beading, high-top moccasin boots, a beaded purse, a dance shawl, and a feather dance fan. The dancers also often wear chokers, beaded hair ties, fur hair extensions, and other accessories.

Moccasin boots such as these can take a long time to make depending on the moccasin pattern and how complicated the designs are. Moccasins are always made of tanned leather and then decorated in a variety of ways. Each tribe has their own unique style of decoration, and you can often determine a person’s tribal affinity based solely on these designs. Any beadwork and other additional decoration are always sewn onto the leather with sinew before the moccasin is sewn together. All moccasins are actually sewn together inside out and then carefully turned right side out in order to add the finishing touches.

Take a look at this fascinating video about how to make moccasins:

[Stephanie Lynn Allen]

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