Week 14: Moccasins

Where did these get their name?

Who made these? Where did they live?

How was the design shaped by both natural and social environments?

Moccasins

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Answers:

Where did these get their name?

The word "moccasin" comes from the Algonquian word maskisina, which was used to signify not just the soft leather shoes we know but any footwear, even boots and sandals. There have been so many distinctive styles of moccasin that it was said you could often tell what tribe someone was from by their footprints.

Who made these? Where did they live?

Moccasins have been made by Native American tribes from all over the continent. Although they were made in a wide variety of styles, they shared a basic design. They were usually made of leather, often deerskin. Historically there were two major kinds of moccasin: soft-sole, and hard-sole. The soft-sole variety were often made by fitting a single piece of tanned leather around the foot. Hard-sole moccasins (like those pictured above) use a hard piece of rawhide as a sole, which provides better protection.

How was the design shaped by both natural and social environments?

Hard-sole moccasins were mostly made by the Arctic and Plains tribes, who often had to deal with sharp rocks and hard shrubs. Soft-sole moccasins were made by the Subarctic, northern prairie, and northeastern tribes, where the ground was mainly grass or forest floor. Decorations varied by region, as well as social function. Often moccasins worn for marriages or other ceremonies are covered more elaborately with beads, while those for normal use are left plain. Today moccasins are still a part of powwow regalia for many tribes.