Traditional Native American clothing varied widely from tribe to tribe, but one
nearly universal element was the moccasin, a sturdy slipper-shaped type of shoe sewn from tanned leather. The word "moccasin" comes
from an Algonquian word (also spelled mocasin, mocassin, moccassin, or mocussin, depending on the language and transcriber), but that is only
because Algonquians were the first Native Americans encountered by Europeans--they were used as footwear from Sonora to Saskatchewan, and though
"moccasins" may be understood and accepted by all of them at this point, most Indian tribes have their own native word for them.
All American Indian moccasins were originally made of soft leather-- usually deerskin-- stitched together with sinew. Though the basic construction of
Native American moccasins was similar throughout North America, moccasin patterns were subtly different in nearly every
tribe, and Indian people could often tell each other's tribal affiliation simply from the design of their shoes. (In fact, the common names
of some large nations like the Blackfoot and the Chippewas refer to their characteristic moccasin styles.) Tribal differences included
not only the cut of the moccasins (here is an excellent
map of North America showing moccasin designs
among different tribes), but also the extensive beadwork, quillwork, and painted designs many Indian people lavished on their shoes.
In some tribes hardened rawhide was used for the sole for added durability, and in others rabbit fur (or, later, sheep skin) was used to
line the leather moccasins for added warmth. Both men and women wore moccasins, although in many tribes the decoration of
male and female moccasins used a different pattern. Plains Indian women also wore moccasin boots sometimes, which were
basically just womens' thigh-length leggings sewn to their moccasins for a one-piece look (this style of boot is very beautiful when
fully quilled). Heavier-duty boots called mukluks were the invention of the
who made them of sealskin, fur, and reindeer hide; some subarctic Indian tribes adapted the mukluk style through trade or
other contact with the Inuit, using caribou or buckskin instead.
Native American moccasin design has stood the test of time; not only are moccasins still being made and worn in many Indian tribes today,
but they have also passed into the American mainstream, and both hard-soled moccasin shoes and soft-soled moccasin slippers are mass-produced
by hundreds of non-native shoe stores now. Mukluks are also getting trendier recently (bizarrely enough, I saw a young woman wearing mukluks with a
miniskirt recently. Do this at your own peril. It did not look as cute as she must have been anticipating.) In light of all this,
if you are looking to buy moccassins or mukluks that were actually made
by Native Americans--either because it's important to you to have the real thing or because you want to support native people with
your purchase--then here is our list of American Indian craftspeople whose shoes are for sale online. If you have a website of Indian moccasins to add to this list,
let us know.
We gladly advertise any individual native artist or native-owned art store here free of charge, provided that all moccassins were made by tribally
recognized American Indian, Inuit, or First Nations artists.
Thank you for your interest in Native American art!
˜ Native American Moccasin Shops
On our main site we do our best to avoid slowing down our page loading with graphics, but this page is about art,
so we'd really be remiss in not showing a few representative Native American moccasin pictures. All photos are the property
of their respective artists; please visit their sites to see their work in more depth.
– Moccasin Slippers
Usually these are sheepskin moccasins or leather ones lined with fur, worn indoors as slippers these days. You can find moccasin slippers
made by machine in most major shoe stores, but Native American craftsmen are still making handmade ones too.
American Indian Moccasins
This Northwest Coast Indian crafts store in Canada carries a variety of men's and women's sheepskin, elkskin, and rabbit-fur moccasins.
Sa-Cinn Muck Lucks
You have to scroll down past the mocasins, but this First Nations store also carries knee-high Athabaskan style mucklucks for sale,
decorated with rabbit fur and beadwork designs. Very distinctive looking.
About us: This website belongs to Native Languages of the Americas, a non-profit
organization dedicated to preserving and promoting endangered Native American languages. We are not artists ourselves, so
if you are interested in buying some of the moccasins featured on this page, please contact the artists directly.
All images remain the property of the artists who have created them-- click the link under each picture to reach them.
Though we have featured only Native American moccasins identified with the name and tribal affiliation of each artist, we haven't
called the tribal offices to check up on any of them, and we only know a few of them personally. We also don't guarantee any of their products.
This is not an exhaustive list of authentic moccasins--if you would like us to add your moccasin site to this page, please
contact us with your URL and tribal affiliation. We advertise any individual native artist or
native-owned art business here free of charge. We do not link to moccasins or muckluck boots which are not made by tribally recognized
American Indian, Inuit, or First Nations artists, so please do not ask us to. And finally, websites do occasionally expire and change hands, so
use your common sense and this general rule of thumb: if the creator of each individual artwork is not identified by name and
specific tribe, you are probably not looking at genuine American Indian mocasins.