Penobscot Moccasins

Penobscot Moccasins
Unknown artist from the Penobscot tribe
animal hide, beads


Evidence of Active Use
Evidence of Active Use

Each pair of moccasins show some sign of aging, and this pair in particular shows evidence of active use. The soles of the Penobscot moccasins show the most wear with large, visible holes and darkened areas of the leather that appear to mimic the shape of a person’s foot.

Six-Point Star
Six-Point Star

The symbolism of the star in American Indian history and culture varies from tribe to tribe. In a few cases, the points of a star can indicate specific regions related to that tribe or specific tribes that represent a larger group. For this six-point star, the meaning behind the use of this shape is uncertain.


What is it?

These moccasins were made with leather and beadwork, and were created by a Penobscot artist. This pair came to the Denver Art Museum in 1936.

What inspired it?

Moccasin History & Use: The term “moccasin” originated from the Algonquian Tribe’s language, but each tribe has their own word for them in their own language. Moccasins were originally created as a practical necessity. As tribes travelled through different terrains and climates, the moccasins provided protection. Today, moccasins are a big part of a dancer’s regalia for Powwow.

Design: Different styles and designs of everyday moccasins are inspired by and created in relation to the environment(s) that particular tribe experiences. For example, tribes from the Woodland areas including the North Eastern part of the US and into Canada (like the Ojibwa and Penobscot tribes) can be identified by their soft-soled moccasins and their use of floral elements located on the top, or vamp and/or cuffs of the moccasin. In contrast, Plains (tribes like Crow and Sioux) moccasins are known to have the top, or vamp (usually excluding cuffs) entirely covered in glass beads or porcupine quills and made with hard soles that withstand rough terrain.

How is it made?

The beaded design appear to be stitched onto a fabric, which is attached to top of the tongue portion fo the moccasin. Fabric panels like this are able to be removed and sewn onto a new pair of moccasins, once the current pair wears out.


  • Can you find any shapes or patterns on these moccasins? Describe them.
  • When do you think these moccasins were made? What makes you think that?
  • What do you notice about the colors on these moccasins