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.

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