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Native American Indian Moccasins
Traditional Native American clothing varied widely from tribe to tribe, but one
nearly universal element was the Indian moccasin, a sturdy slipper-shaped type of shoe sewn from tanned leather.
The word "moccasin" comes from an Algonquian Indian 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-- Indian moccasins were used as footwear from Sonora to Saskatchewan, and though
the word moccasin is understood and accepted by all of them at this point, most Indian tribes have
their own native word for this traditional footwear.
All American Indian moccasins were originally made of soft leather-- usually deerskin-- stitched together with sinew.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, painted designs, and fringes many Indian people
lavished on their moccasins. 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 Inuit (Eskimos),
who made them of sealskin, fur, and reindeer hide; some subarctic Indian tribes adapted the mukluk
style of boots through trade or other contact with the Inuit, using caribou or buckskin instead of sealskin.
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 handmade moccasins 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 moccasins!
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 moccasin photos
are the property of their respective artists; please visit their sites to see their handiwork in more depth.
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 slipper moccasins too.
Sa-Cinn 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.
Beaded Leather Moccasins
Fancier and more expensive than moccasin slippers, beaded moccasins are usually used by contemporary
Native Americans as regalia for ceremonies, powwows, and special occasions like weddings.
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.
Books About Native American Moccasins
Here are some other good internet resources for learning about or purchasing Native American moccassins:
The Indian Arts and Crafts Act: US law against passing off fake American Indian crafts as genuine.
What constitutes Native American art fraud, and how to report it if you find it.
Native American Footwear: Articles, sketches, and photographs of American Indian moccasin styles from NativeTech.
First Nations Clothing: Online photographic collection including traditional Canadian Indian moccasins, mukluks, and boots.
Native American Textiles and Clothing: Pictures, descriptions, and links about traditional Indian clothes and mocasins.
Cheyenne Moccasins, and
Photo galleries of Native American moccasins from different tribes.
Native American Clothing: Orrin contributed to this larger directory of American Indian clothes and moccasins, many of which are authentic.
Native American Information: View our kids' pages about different Indian tribes, with information about traditional clothing styles in each.
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.
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