• How to Make Blackfoot Moccasins - Based on Clark Wissler excerpt

How to Make Blackfoot Moccasins Circa 1909

Excerpt from “Material Culture of the Blackfoot” by Clark Wissler – 1909

Pages 128 – 130:

Blackfoot moccasins seem to have been of two general forms. The one, which is the older by tradition, is made from a single piece cut as shown in Fig. 78. The following note of explanation is contributed by Mr. William C. Orchard: — “That part of the pattern marked a forms the upper side of the moccasin: b, the sole: e, the tongue, f, the trailer. The leather is folded lengthwise, along the dotted line, the points c and d are brought together and the edges

native american footware blackfoot mocassins north americaFig. 78 (50-4411). The One-piece Moccasin Pattern

sewed along to the point g, which makes a seam the whole length of the foot and around the toes. The vertical heel seam is formed by sewing c and d now joined to h, f projecting. The strips c and d are each, half the width of that marked h, consequently the side seam at the heel is half way between the top of the moccasin and the sole, but reaches the level at the toes. As the sides of this moccasin are not high enough for the wearer’s comfort, an extension or ankle flap is sewed on, varying from two to six inches in width, cut long enough to overlap in front and held in place by means of the usual draw string or lacing around the ankle.”

Fig. 79 (50-4566). Pattern of Upper for a Hard Soled Moccasin.

Blackfoot moccasins for winter use were of this form, but usually made of buffalo skin with the hair inside.

Two or More Pieces: Hard or Soft Sole Blackfoot Moccasin

Blackfoot moccasin generally worn today is of two or more pieces and usually provided with a rawhide sole. Parfleche and bags are often pressed into service for such purposes, remnants of the painted designs being observable within. The soles conform generally to the outlines of the foot and are in consequence rights and lefts. The uppers are of the form shown in Fig. 79. Sometimes the tongue is joined instead of being continuous with the material of the upper. Around the ankle on many moccasins is a fold of cloth, usually red, bordered by black or green and ornamented by a peculiar cross stitch (Fig. 80).

In former times, it is said, a strip of white weasel skin was attached to the moccasin of a prominent man. A high top is frequently added which, with the tongue, fully covers the ankle. The string or lace, passes around under the fold of cloth, occasionally looped through the heel, making the entire circuit. Sometimes, however, two strings are used, the ends fastened near the heel seam, but otherwise as before.

Trailers are used. Thirteen pairs of Blackfoot moccasins examined by us ranged as follows: no trailers, 4; one trailer, 3: two trailers, 3; fringed along the heel seam, 3.

No definite differences between Blackfoot moccasins used by men and women are now observable. In summer, a plain canvas moccasin is the usual form for ordinary use. For decoration, paints, quills and beads are employed. As among many other tribes, the entire decoration of the upper is completed before attaching to the sole. This joining usually begins at the toe with the parts turned wrong side out but righted before entirely sewed up. The use of tiny rattles of metal or dew-claws as moccasin decorations seems not to have found a place in Blackfoot culture.

At one time, it was fashionable for men to fasten the tails of badgers or other objects to the heels of their Blackfoot moccasins as trailing ornaments, a practice formerly observed among the village Indians. Nothing of this kind remains, though a few old men still tie tails to their stirrups — apparently a survival.


Fig. 80 (50-4406). A Blackfoot Moccasin. Length, 27 cm.


About Clark Wissler (1870-1947)

Clark Wissler’s classic work, “Material culture of the Blackfoot Indians” published in 1910, is a descriptive survey of the material culture of the Blackfoot, comparing the Peigan, Blood and Northern Blackfoot with each other and with the neighboring Prairie, Plains, Plateau, Shoshone, and occasionally Eastern Algonkian societies. While Wissler collected some data on the Blackfoot while in the field, much additional material is taken from historical accounts and comparative material comes from both historical accounts and American Museum collections.

Clark Wissler’s main area of research was on Native American Culture. His influence is often overlooked because of other anthropologists like Franz Boas and Ruth Benedict. Wissler offered some new theories that were quite different from Boas, who was a leading cultural researcher. Wissler’s Influence is still felt in Anthropology today and he is credited for helping make Cultural Anthropology and Psychology more scientific with analytical and statistical testing.

Blackfoot Moccasin Related Products

The following items are related to the above-article, or may provide added reference and helpful information.

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AVAILABLE NOW with 8 more Pages & 12 more Historic Photos & Illustrations!

About this Revised Edition

When published in 1969, George White's book on making American Indian moccasins was the first comprehensive manual on the subject and it remains so today. After George's death, it has been published by his son Frank.

Frank White decided to retire from publishing in 2013, Crazy Crow acquired the rights to the book. As the last print run was exhausted, we decided to build upon George's excellent work by adding our detailed Plains Hard Sole & Soft Sole moccasin instructions with detailed illustrations, along with a number of full color photos of different moccasin styles.

We are pleased to make this new revised and expanded edition available and hope that it will bring many hours of pleasure to anyone who is interested in producing authentic, Native American footwear or moccasins.

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This excellent 55 minute presentation by Frank White is the perfect companion for our upcoming Native American Moccasins: A Craft Manual, on which it was based. The complete, step-by-step method of making a pair of side-seam moccasins is demonstrated here in great, close-up detail. Also shown and discussed are necessary tools and supplies, pattern making, leather names and types, and advanced sewing techniques. By using this video, you will easily be able to make a nice pair of moccasins that actually fit!
Northern Plains Soft Sole Moccasin Kit

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Note that the price displayed is for the base kit. Larger sizes, buckskin or elk in place of cowhide adds to the price (as shown in the "Style" drop-down list.

Base Kit includes:

  • 2 soft pieces of thick moccasin cowhide(or choose gold buckskin, gold elk & German Tanned Buckskin)
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Plains Hard Sole Moccasin Kit - Adult & Child Sizes

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First quality materials for authentic plains moccasins of the 1800s to today.

Note that the price displayed is for the base kit. Larger sizes, or buckskin in place of cowhide adds to the price (as shown in the "Style" drop- down list.

Base Kit includes:

  • 2 thick white latigo soles
  • 2 soft pieces of moccasin cowhide (or choose gold buckskin, white buckskin or smoked German Tanned buckskin) for uppers, tongues, welt & laces
  • 1 yard simulated sinew & Glover's needle
  • illustrated instructions