Gilcrease Museum is temporarily closed for construction.

Get the Full Story

Browse: Plains Moccasins

“Moccasin,” the anglicized version of the French interpretation of an Algonkian Indian word, has become the generic term for Native American footwear in North America. Constructed from the tanned hide of bison, deer, moose, caribou, and antelope, moccasins and boots assumed divergent forms throughout the continent. Moccasins created from a single piece of hide, cut and sewn according to intricate patterns, produced the “soft sole” types that dominated in the eastern Woodlands and Great Lakes region. In the Plains and Southwest areas, moccasins and boots commonly employed hard soles of untanned rawhide to provide greater protection and longer wear.  

Considerable effort was invested in the design nuances and decorative embellishments of Native American footwear, bringing aesthetic elements and symbolic meanings to an otherwise utilitarian object. Adorned with embroidered porcupine and bird quills, ribbon work, paint, and beadwork, moccasins provided challenging arenas for artistic expression. Many groups developed separate styles and decorative elements for footwork depending on the age and gender of the wearer. The interpretation of design motifs includes realistic elements of the physical world, abstract symbolism from the cosmos, and representations of supernatural forces. It is interesting to note that moccasin design and decoration. Particularly for women, provided one of the most tenacious elements of tribal distinctiveness into the 20th century.