Welcome to one of the most popular "Moccasin" pages on the Web! This page will introduce you to "everything moccasin" that Crazy Crow Trading Post offers. From ready made moccasins, to moccasin kits and patterns, books and videos about moccasin making – and everything you'll need to make them. Besides producdts, we offer information on the history and origins of moccasins, including a photo gallery and links to other online resources.
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Moccasins are the footwear most often associated with traditional North American footwear. Depending on location and available materials, other types of footwear were also worn: woven sandals, boots, and leggings attached to shoes. The origins of moccasins undoubtedly originate in climates and conditions that made it necessary to make protective footwear. Wearing moccasins or boots would have been essential to keep feet from freezing. In warm weather and mild surroundings, protective footwear would be less important and people could easily go barefoot.
Ultimately, the word "moccasin" came to identify the leather footwear of most of the Indian people of North American due to the circumstances of earliest contacts between white settlers along the New England coast and their nearest native neighbors. The word moccasin moccasin derives from the Algonquian language Powhatan word makasin and from the Proto-Algonquian word "maxkeseni" (shoe). "Moccasin" traditionally referred to a shoe with a puckered u-shaped "vamp" over the instep. The name of the Great Lakes Ojibway tribe means "people of the puckered moccasin". The southern New England Narragansett word for shoe is "Mocussinass" or "Mockussinchass". Today the word moccasin, known by a variety of spellings, generally refers to all types of hard and soft soled shoe styles, with and without puckered toes, originating with Native Americans.
Native American moccasin styles, how they were designed, and the materials used to make them, were the result of their specific environment. Hard-sole moccasins always made in rights and lefts, and usually made from two or more pieces of hide, are associated with the western plains and deserts areas. The thick, hard sole of shaped rawhide and fitted leather upper required more tailoring than other types of moccasins. Hard-soled moccasins protect feet from harsh cactus or prairie-grass covered ground or sharp rocks.
Soft-soled moccasins, often made from a single piece of leather, were common in the Eastern Forests and were made by bringing up the sole of the shoe around the foot and puckering or patching the material around the instep. Soft-soled center seam and pucker-toe moccasins were especially well suited to travel through woodlands with leaf and pine-needle covered ground. Some soft-soled moccasins from the Plains and Northwest Coast were made from one piece, but they were sewed along one the side of the foot rather than the center.
The most basic form of soft-sole moccasin was the simple center seam made from a single piece of soft-tanned leather. The leather sides were brought up from the bottom and around the sides of the foot sewn in a central seam starting with a puckered stitch at the toe and running along the upper instep. Variations of this soft-sole moccasin construction include a u-shaped piece of leather, added as a vamp, while another piece was added to the back of the moccasin to serve as a cuff.
Some of the Great Lakes and Iroquois tribes used a wide vamp, added in a gathered fashion to cover most of the upper front of the moccasin. Other Eastern Forest tribes constructed their footwear with a shorter or narrower vamp that sometimes joined a central puckered seam running down the upper front to the toe.
Tribal differences in moccasin design and decoration could literally be said to begin from ground up! So distinctive are some moccasin styles that you could tell the tribe of the wearer by his footprints. Moccasins were made with all types of variations and additions according to the styles of different tribes. Flaps of leather or fur were often added to cover the ankle, or folded down as a cuff. Some moccasins were made into a boot simply by attaching them to the leggings. Various sized u-shaped or elliptical pieces of leather, called vamps or insets, were added to the moccasin upper at the instep. A tongue for hard and soft-soled moccasins was often added and cut into various forms and decorated.
Many methods were used to pucker the toes of woodland center-seam moccasins. A distinctive "rabbit nose" or "partridge" moccasins could be sewed by trimming the pattern first into a "w" shape. There were also many ways to finish the heels of moccasins. Varieties of Eastern Woodland moccasins often left a tiny tab, or tail, trimmed to different shapes, that dragged behind. Other one-piece moccasins have no tail, or the tab is sewn up to the heel for added reinforcement. Some moccasins of the plains and prairie had fringe hanging at the heel seam or added onto the instep; as fringe trailed behind the walker, it may have helped to obliterate footprints.
Even where moccasin construction techniques are similar among tribes, the quilled (and later beaded) decoration was usually quite distinctive. Woodland moccasins were often decorated in floral or zoomorphic (animal) designs, on the instep or tongue portion, woodland decoration did not usually cover the sides of the moccasin. The flap or added cuff around the ankle was also often decorated, or worn upright and held in place by thongs wrapped around the ankle. A separate beaded or quilled piece of velvet or leather was sometimes sewn on top of the cuff or tongue portion. These decorated panels could be easily removed from the moccasins when the soles wore out, and sewn onto a new pair. Plains moccasins often left the cuff undecorated, but geometric bead and quillwork patterns often decorated the instep portion, or around the circumference near the sole. Some Plains designs covered the entire top of the moccasin from the heel to the toe. Moccasins worn for marraige were often completely covered in beads. For Plains peoples preparedness in the afterlife, many moccasins worn into burial were fully beaded even on the bottom of the soles.
Moccasins were usually made from the soft tanned hides of deer, moose, elk or buffalo. Rawhide was used for the bottoms of hard-soled moccasins. Hides from the larger animals were much thicker than buckskin. Thicker hides were more difficult to sew, but produced sturdier, longer lasting moccasins. Sewing is easier with soft Indian-tanned (or brain-tanned) leather, but commercially sueded and split leather (more commmon by far today) is also suitable for moccasin making.
Commercial leather is most like brain tanned leather when it is split (sueded on both sides), as the smooth outside of the hide has been split off. Leather thickness is measured by the weight in ounces of a square foot of leather. Very thin garment leathers, 1-2 oz. weight, is usually too thin for practical moccasins, while heavy leathers, 5-6 oz. weight, can be nearly impossible to sew by hand. Medium thickness leather (3-4 oz. weight) is recommended for most soft-soled moccasins.
Patterns should be laid out on the hide so the pieces go with the grain of the leather, so the moccasins will be uniform. You can conserve leather by laying out the pieces to be cut from the hide in more effiecient space-saving locations, but since the leather stretches in different directions, sewing can become a little irregular if the grain direction is ignored.
Moccasins are assembled inside out to hide the stitching in the finished footwear. Traditional sewing would be done with animal sinew through holes punched with an awl. For comfort, knots were kept on the outside of a shoe. The whip stitch was commonly used in moccasin construction, often with an added narrow welt running the length of the seam to make it stronger and to help hide the stitching when turned right side out. The running stitch was also used in places where the whip stitch was not as practical (adding fringe, etc.). Seams were often gently pounded flat in puckered areas.
While doing our own research for our above article, "Moccasins 101" and other related work, we have found other website resources that may be of help to you. Click the "READ MORE" link to view the entire section. You may re-hide that area by clicking the "HIDE TEXST" link at the bottom of the section.
Detroit Historical Society: Woodlands Moccasin Digital Collection
Fourteen photo examples from various angles of a variety of Woodlands Indian moccasins showing beadwork, ribbonwork and other cnostruction and decration. Includes: Winnebago, Chippewa, Potawatomi & Fox soft sole moccasins.
BATA Shoe Museum
Cultural identity was expressed in a vast range of forms and techniques that were distinctive to specific regions or tribes during certain periods. In the 1830s, the travelling artist George Catlin observed: "There is a striking similarity of costume among these tribes. Yet there are modes of stitching and embroidery in every tribe which may at once enable the traveler who is familiar with these modes to detect or distinguish the dress of any tribe." The footwear made by the different peoples who lived on the Great Plains is testimony to the richness of the cultural diversity to be found across the Plains. Click the numeric links at the bottom of the pages to tour this diversity in photos.
Search Results for moccasins | Penn Museum Collections
Digital images of various angles and details of Native American moccssins in Penn Museum. Closeups show great detail.
American Museum of Natural History North American Ethnographic Collection
The Museum's North American Ethnographic collection with over 47,000 catalog entries covers the whole continent from the Arctic, through Plains, Eastern Woodlands, Plateau, Southwest and California to the Southeast. Several of the best collections were made by the great ethnologists of the late 1800s and early 1900s during their often extensive fieldwork, for example, Franz Boas in British Columbia (Kwakiutl Kwakwaka'wakw), and Clark Wissler (Blackfeet, Sioux), Alfred Kroeber (Arapaho), Robert Lowie (Crow) and Margaret Mead (Omaha) on the Great Plains. Enter "moccasins" in the search field and start your tour.
Morning Star Gallery Moccasin Gallery
Morning Star has been recognized for carrying cultural and artistic treasures of unparalleled quality and beauty from over fifty Native North American tribes. Perhaps the most recognizable category of antique American Indian art is Plains and Plateau beadwork. Beginning in the 18th Century, glass beads imported primarily from Italy quickly became one of the most desirable Euro-American trade items. Known as "Trade Beads," they rapidly replaced porcupine and bird quills as they were easier to work with and came in a wide variety of colors and sizes.
Material from the mid-19th Century can often be difficult to attribute to a specific tribe. As the century progressed, tribal distinctions based on function, design, color use and especially beading techniques became more apparent and entrenched; with each group creating a stunning array of items showcasing their unique interpretations of classic themes.
Heritage Auctions - Rare Collectibles: Moccasins Gallery
This link takes you to the auction gallery Moccasin gallery. Great variety of quality photos of moccasins from variety of periods and regions.
Overview of Native American Footwear - Moccasins
Native Tech: Discussion of history and origin of Native American footwear. Includes sketch of construction techniques of different styles and overview of materials used in construction and decoration.
Map of North America with Native American Varieties of Moccasins
Native Tech: Map image displays type moccasins by tribal location. Link links to view photo samples of individual moccasins by tribe/location. Fun and informative graphic aid.
Native American Varieties of Moccasins - Ute
Photos of partially and fully beaded Ute moccasins.
Arapaho Moccasins, ca. 1900
From the Museum & Research Center of the American Mountain Men. Perhaps the finest artifact in this museum collection is the pair of moccasins that are featured in this article (as of 1983). From a collection in northern California.
Brain Tanning Articles & Research
Brain tanned leather is the best for moccasins, but very expensive to purchase. If you're interested in using brain tanned deer, elk, moose or buffalo, and willing to learn and do the work, you'll find this site offers over 100 pages of detailed articles, written by very knowledgeable experts, replete with pictures, drawings and a lot of excellent information. There are a few exceptions, but generally these articles are not intended to be "complete how-to's". These articles can be used to introduce you to various aspects of tanning, to go further with your skills once you understand the basics, or for research.
Lakota Music and Dance: Plains Hard-Sole Moccasins
Illustrated instructions on how to make these popular style of moccasin for pow wow dancing, or everyday wear.
How to make one-piece Soft Sole Moccasins in Tutorial Section Forum
This tutorial provides instruction for making one-piece hightop moccasins. While the focus is on a featured pair of moccasins, there are bviously many other styles, many teachers, and many books from which to draw inspiration and instruction. The degree of detail provided is with the beginner in mind. If you have some experience you will be able to skim over much of it. This is the first of five parts.
How to Make Moccasins and Mukluks
How to make a pair of woodlands style moccasins with fur trim. A free pattern is available in a woman's size 7 (as a PDF file - you will need Acrobat to view).
Instructions for One-Piece, Soft-Sole, Center-Seam Moccasins
Native Tech: Step-by-step instructions for making your own paper pattern and one-piece, soft-sole, center-seam moccasins.
History of Shoshone-Bannock Indian Art: Continuity & Change in the Northern Rockies
Beadwork is the best-known art form of Wind River and Fort Hall Shoshones and Bannocks. It is an enduring tradition, but one that has evolved over time. Materials, styles, colors, patterns, symbolism and other characteristics reflect the environment of the beader at the time she or he created their work. This is as true for modern beadworkers as it was in the 19th century. Today, beadwork can literally adorn almost any object, including watch bands, key fobs, baseball caps, wallets, belts, dresses, vests, sport shoes, etc. More traditional forms, of course, include powwow regalia--beaded buckskin dresses, moccasins, traditional pouches and teepee storage bags, leggings, etc.
This page of thumbnails is linked to some of the earliest examples of Shoshone-Bannock beadwork found on clothing and moccasins. Beadwork Index Page 2 provide links to geometric designs on items such as knife sheaths, bags and pouches, pipe bags, and other decorated items. One of the key features of early Shoshone-Bannock beadwork is the overwhelming preference for four basic colors: white, green, blue, and cobalt.
Maas Collection of Native Americana - Moccasin Gallery
Online galleries of both museumquality collections and quality reproductions,including Hopewell pipes, axes& celts, points, bead work, baskets, pottery, and more. This is a private collection, offering many close-up images of beadwork, moccasins (Crow & Cree) and other crafts.
From the Museum and Research Center of the American Mountain Men: Article from Tomahawk & Long Rifle. Detailed sketches and description of moccasins, circa 1900.
Brilliantly Beaded - Northeastern Native American Beadwork: Moccasins
The moccasins assembled in this collection represent three distinct forms - a Micmac, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot style in which a wide vamp (toe) is pucker stitched to the sole and the heel portion has a vertical seam up the back; an Iroquoian form in which the heel seams form an upside down “T”; and a Great Lakes type in which a center seam runs down the top of the moccasin.
Judy Kavanagh's Moccasins Collection Gallery
Moccasins from her personal collection, mostly soft-sole, Woodlands. Other galleries are available on this website as well, including Plains moccasins and mukluks.
Crazy Crow Trading Post has long been your number one source for Native American Indian craft supplies for your Pow Wow regalia and other needs. This photo gallery represents and article represent moccasins of all regions and tribal origins. It, like many of the articles and galleries we add to the website are works in progress. If you find something that needs correction, or have something to add, either as narrative or photos and video, we appreciate your contribution. We cannot guarantee that anything submitted will be included, but it will be reviewed carefully.