One of the oldest crafts in Native American culture is basket making. The tribes in the northeast make baskets out of many materials including birch bark, split wood of ash trees and sweet grass, the strongest being those made from the wood of brown or black ash trees, known as basket trees.
These slow growing trees are found along streams and in bogs and swaps only in the Northeastern United States and Southeastern Canada. The wet landscapes they grow in produce more flexible strands good for weaving.
The logs selected for basket making are straight and about 8-10 feet in length. Once the bark is peeled from the log, the splints are pounded using the back of an ax or sledgehammer. The results are sheets about 1/16” thick that are peeled off each layer of the growth ring. These splints are used to make baskets for practical purposes or more preparation goes into making more delicate fancy baskets.
These leaflets were prepared by F.H. Douglas, curator of Indian Art at the Denver Art Museum.
Each leaflet has four to eight pages. The first page carries the title and a picture relative to the subject of the leaflet. The remaining pages are devoted to the text, which is divided into boldly marked subject headings. Each leaflet also contains a bibliography for further reading. Leading authorities on the various subjects were asked to approve the texts before publication.
Reproduction Comanche Outfit Based on one Worn by Quanah Parker
Quanah Parker was born in 1845 to a Comanche Indian Chief, Peta Nocona, and his white captive wife, Cynthia Anne Parker. Quanah became a strong and respected leader among the Comanches and other Southern Plains Native American tribes. He led the fight against European settlers in his territory. He also led his people in negotiations with whites when he realized that continuing to fight would only lead to the annihilation of his people.
In the 1980s, crafter Sam Cahoun created this reproduction of an outfit worn by Quanah Parker. The outfit consists of a Braintanned Leather Shirt, Braintanned Leather Leggings, a Breechcloth, a Bone Hairpipe Breastplate, and a Pair of Otter Hair Ties. You can see in the historical photos that Quanah would have also worn Moccasins and a Blanket and carried other accessories. Continue reading Reproduction Comanche Outfit
George Catlin was born in 1796. He taught himself how to paint and became an accomplished artist. In his early years, he painted portraits and created lithographs of sites in New York. Following his first trip into Native American territory in 1830 he became one of the first people to document Native American smoking pipes and their uses. He provided commentary on the varieties of pipes and the specific decorations associated with various tribes. Continue reading George Catlin and Native American Smoking Pipes
Native Americans and Buffalo have a long history together. Buffalo, or the American Bison, has played an essential role in the survival and culture of the Native Americans who lived in the Plains region of what is now the United States, and parts of southern Canada. Buffalo once roamed the Plains in innumerable herds until the middle of the 19th century. Incursions by white settlers and the arrival of the railroad severely depleted the number of Buffalo living on the Plains. Native Americans use of every part of a Buffalo for food, clothing, tools, fuel and utensils. Continue reading Native Americans and Buffalo
Native American men in North America wear one traditional style of headdress called a ‘Roach’. Natives have made Roaches from Whitetail Deer hair, Moose hair, Turkey Beards, Porcupine Hair, Horsehair or a combination of these. Native Americans have worn some form of Roach headdresses starting before the contact period. Early colonial writings mention these headdresses several times. These early writers sometimes referred to roaches as ‘crowns’ or ‘coronets’.
When wearing a roach, men can also wear a Roach Spreader inside to spread the hair. This way they can achieve a balanced shape for the roach. In order to facilitate wearing a roach, Native American men braid one section of their hair. Continue reading Roach Spreaders – History
Much has been written about the peaked caps – also known as hoods – that are worn by the Wabanaki people. Bruce Bourque and Laureen LaBar present illustrations of several of these hoods in their book “Uncommon Threads: Wabanaki Textiles, Clothing, and Costume”. But what are they?
First, we need to understand that Wabanaki Hoods were worn by both men and women. In this article, we will explore the women’s peaked hood.
Native Americans of the Eastern Woodlands used many materials to create jewelry and accessories to wear and trade. In the pre-contact period, Native Americans in the Northeast used shells, bones, stones, feathers, leather, fur and metals like copper to make necklaces, bracelets, earrings, headdresses and sashes. Some of these materials were fashioned into beads and pendants that were strung on leather or fiber laces. Others were simply attached to the clothing or body part that was to be adorned.
Eastern Woodlands Native American Clothing is both functional and decorative. During the pre-contact period, Eastern Native American clothing was made from animal leather and furs. When European trade goods arrived in Northeastern North America, the Native Americans eagerly adopted wool, cotton, linen, ribbons and beads to use for their own clothing. But while they began to use different materials, their clothing style remained essentially unchanged to allow them to move freely in their Woodland environment.
A Bolo Tie is kind of a cross between a necktie and a necklace. They are often made with a braided leather cord with decorative metal tips on the ends. The focus of the Bolo Tie is a slide that features a decorative item like a stone cabochon, a beaded rosette, a silver concho, or other items that have a flat back that you can attach to the slide. Continue reading Make Your Own Bolo Tie!
Native American Ribbon Shirts are Regalia items that are worn by Native American people of many tribes and traditions. The shirts developed from European Trade Shirts that were usually made of cotton or linen fabric. Silk ribbons were another of the trade goods brought to North America by the Europeans. The bright colors of the ribbons made them very popular among Native Americans. In the 1800s calico fabric became available and Native Americans also made clothing from that colorful patterned cloth. Continue reading Native American Ribbon Shirts
Native American Dance Shawls are a regalia item you will always see at Powwows. Whether simple or fancy, most women wear them or carry them on their arms. Many Powwow circles do not allow women into the circle if they are not wearing or carrying a shawl.
Dance Shawls are not a pre-contact clothing item. They were likely adapted from women’s blankets. They are made of fabric with fringe or ribbons decorating the edges. Fancy Shawls feature beadwork or fabric or ribbon applique along with colorful fringe.
This pair of antique moccasins was crafted in the early 20th century. The crafter was probably a Northeastern Algonquin from the eastern part of Canada. Their origin is determined by the construction and decoration of the moccasins.
The moccasins themselves are constructed with Braintanned Deerskin. Native Americans tanned their own deerhides using the brain of the animal to soften the hide. After it was soaked and worked, it was smoked to preserve it. Until Europeans brought commercial tanning methods to North America, all animal leather was braintanned. The moccasins were sewn together with cotton thread instead of real animal sinew, so they were created in the historical period. Continue reading Antique Moccasins: Montaignais Naskapi
Early American Men’s Shirts served a purpose. It was made in a pullover style with one button at the neck. They were worn as an undergarment to absorb bodily dirt and oil at a time when laundering clothes and washing the body were not a frequent occurrence. The shirt was knee length which was necessary because the shirt was also used as a night shirt and was the only form of underwear worn by most men.
Native American beadwork, like quill work before it, is a decorative art form. Almost as soon as seed beads were available, native women invented two techniques for using them: loom beading and applique embroidery. Those two techniques are still in use today. Loom-beading and a form of single-needle weaving (peyote beading) are not adaptations of techniques known to European or other cultures – they are native inventions. Continue reading Bead Looms – History and Usage
The variety of beads introduced to North America is vast. Small glass beads are often known as Seed Beads. Italy was one of the most prolific manufacturers of these small glass beads. Most of these beads were made using the “drawn” method. A glass blower would blow a bubble in a molten blob of glass. Other workers, often young boys, would grasp the soft glass bubble and pull it into a long thin tube. The air bubble would create the hole going the length of the tube. Some references state that these tubes could be up to 150 feet long. The tube would be broken into small pieces after it cooled. Finally, the pieces were reheated, and tumbled to smooth the edges. Finished beads were sorted by size. Continue reading Seed Beads in North America
Sinew is a fibrous band of tissue also known as a tendon. Tendons connect muscles to bones in animals. These fibers have been used by many pre-industrial societies because they are strong and durable. Real animal sinew has unique properties which make it an excellent material for sewing and binding. It contains natural proteins that act like glue and it shrinks as it dries, so it doesn’t need to be knotted. Continue reading Real Animal Sinew and Imitation Sinew
History of The Wandering Bull, A Native American Craft Store
The Wandering Bull was started by Paul and Harriett Bullock with a card table at powwows around 1969. With six children, four sets of dance bustles in a VW bus, and a love for our culture, we never stopped growing. As the family became more involved in powwows, the kids encouraged us to develop a small part time business. These sales enabled us to attend powwows and pay for gasoline, food etc. Although everything was informal, these were the beginnings of The Wandering Bull. Continue reading Wandering Bull Native American Craft Store
Catlinite is also known as Pipestone. It is a red stone that is easy to carve because it doesn’t have a lot of quartz in it. It can be worked with carving tools and knives. Its red color comes from iron in the soil. The name Catlinite first came into use after the painter, George Catlin, visited the stone quarries in 1835. George Catlin recorded a legend about the origin of using Catlinite to make pipes, where the Great Spirit told the tribes that this stone must only be used to make pipes. Continue reading Catlinite History
The first European explorers and colonists gave Native Americans glass and ceramic beads as gifts and used beads for trade with them. Native Americans had made bone, shell, and stone beads long before the Europeans arrived in North America, and continued to do so. However, European glass beads, mostly from Venice, some from Holland and, later, from Poland and Czechoslovakia, became popular and sought after by Native Americans. Europeans realized early on that beads were important to Native Americans and corporations such as the Hudson Bay Trading Company developed lucrative bead-trading markets with them. The Hudson Bay Trading Company was an organized group of explorers who ventured into the North American continent for trade expeditions during the 19th century. Continue reading Native American Trade Beads History
Bone Hairpipe history is long in North America. Thousands of years before Bone Hairpipe became popular, tube shaped beads, often tapered at both ends, were used as decorative elements by the Native Americans of North America. Some of the earliest tube beads were made from conch shells and were highly valued. Tube beads were also made from bird bones and copper during the prehistoric period. Continue reading Bone Hairpipe History
When Europeans first encountered turkeys in America, they incorrectly identified the birds as a type of guinea fowl (birds which were thought to typically come from the country of Turkey.) The name of the North American bird then became “turkey fowl”, which was then shortened to turkey. Wild turkey is native to North American in an area ranging from Northern Mexico to the Eastern United States. The wild turkey nearly disappeared in the early 1900s due to over hunting and clearing for farmland. Continue reading Turkey Feathers History
Jingle Cones are metal discs that are rolled to create a cone shape, with one end narrower than the other. They have been traditionally used by Native Americans to sew on women’s dresses that are worn for the Jingle Dress Dance. These metal cones make a jingling sound when the dancer moves. Continue reading Jingle Cones
Traditionally, the Ojibwe construct dream catchers or “dreamcatchers” by stringing sinew strands in a web around a small round or tear-shaped frame of willow. In a way, it is roughly similar to their method for making snowshoe webbing. The resulting dream catcher, hung above the bed, is used as a charm to protect sleeping people, usually children, from nightmares. Continue reading Dream Catchers
Wampum beads include the white shell beadsfashioned from the North Atlantic channeled whelk shell, a sea snail with a spiral shape; and the white and purple beadsmade from the quahog, or Western North Atlantic hard-shelled clam. Quahogs are found in the waters from Cape Cod south to New York, with a great abundance in Long Island Sound. Wampum were used by the northeastern Native Americans as a form of gift exchange. European traders and politicians, using beads and trinkets, often exploited gift exchange to gain Native American favor or territory. With the scarcity of metal coins in New England, Wampum quickly evolved into a formal currency after European/Native contact, its production greatly facilitated by slender European metal drill bits. Wampum was mass produced in coastal southern New England. The Narragansetts and Pequots monopolized the manufacture and exchange of wampum in this area. Continue reading Wampum Beads History