Glass beads became available to American Indian tribes through European production and trade. Different techniques of beadwork help to achieve different visual effects.
Through the use of brightly-colored beads and dyed leather, moccasins are able to communicate particular identities. Each tribe often has their own meanings and identity associated with each color.
What is it?
These moccasins are boot-style, created for a child, with beaded leggings. This pair was made with skin, beadwork, glass, paper, and string. These were created by a Crow artist in the mid-20th century and came to the Denver Art Museum in 1999.
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. This hard-sole style, however, only dates back to the mid-nineteenth century.
How is it made?
This pair of child's boots includes a pair of beaded leggings. The leggings created and used by American Indians serve a variety of purposes, ranging from practical to decorative. A few of the many uses of leggings include coverage for warmth, coverage as a form of modesty, protection from plants and animals, and a piece of dance regalia. The purpose of this specific pair is uncertain.