361-8 Moccasins; ké (TK); buckskin, sinew, pigment, silver; l. 26 cm., w. 10 cm., h. 11 cm; ca. 1880. Making footwear was regarded as a craft of Navajo men. The soles of moccasins and boots were...

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Navajo I.R.

361-8 Moccasins; ké (TK); buckskin, sinew, pigment, silver; l. 26 cm., w. 10 cm., h. 11 cm; ca. 1880. Making footwear was regarded as a craft of Navajo men. The soles of moccasins and boots were traditionally made of several layers of thick deerskin or badger skin, taken from the neck of the animals. Later rawhide became more common, while buckskin was always used for the upper parts. After cutting the parts, they were sewn together with an awl making the perforations, and sinew thread through them and tightened by hand. The early awls were made of deer-bone and were replaced by needles stuck in a wooden handle. The heel was finished last, after fitting the footwear for size and comfort. Leather thongs, threaded through holes in the upper, secured the footwear. In other cases, brass and silver buttons were sewn on one part of the upper, and holes cut in the other part. Moccasins covered the ankle, or about ten centimeters of the leg, and both these types were worn by men and women. In addition, boots were made by sewing a large piece of buckskin to the moccasins, and wrapping this around the lower leg, securing it with a leather thong or woven garter. These were usually worn by Navajo women on ceremonial occasions, and this type of footwear was probably adopted from Pueblo neighbors. Navajo moccasins are hardly decorated. Most moccasins were dyed red with mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus montanus), and some early ones have some bead- and quillwork, inspired by Ute examples. Metal buttons are sometimes applied for utilitarian of decorative purposes (Franciscan Fathers 1910:305-311; Ostermann 1917:7-9; Kluckhohn 1971:282-290; Conn 1974:106-107). (Hovens 2009) Navaho Dress Ten Kate graphically described the dress of the Navahos: "In their attire, which has already been mentioned, they recall the Pueblo Indians in many respects, and particularly the Moquis and Zunis. In this regard many women can hardly be distinguished from their sisters in the aforementioned tribes. As a rule, the men wear a purple or red head cloth after the fashion of the Apaches, but differ in that a bundled-up lock of hair is suspended from the back of their heads. Except for the blankets, leg attire, and moccasins, their garb is a cheap, unsightly hodgepodge of cotton prints and cloth; and darker colors, black and dark-blue, are particularly in vogue. The leg attire consists of large pieces of brown leather, which are tightly bound below the knee with a band (Sp. faja) woven from red wool and reaching down to the ankles. The moccasins envelop the feet like a stocking and consist of soft, smooth leather, with a sole, which is only a little harder and thicker than the leather covering the toes and the insteps. The sole ornamentation of their footwear consists of a pair of silver buttons, allowing it to close below the ankle. Sometimes the leggings, too, are ornamented on the outside with a row of silver buttons. Not uncommonly both leggings and moccasins are entirely black. Both sexes wear broad leather belts decorated with lovely silver plates. The men, in addition, often wear well-made bags of leather or puma (Felis concolor) over their shoulders. Painting or tattooing the face is apparently rare. Now and then one sees Navajos with broad-brim grey felt sombreros, with an eagle feather (from Aquila chrysaetus) attached to them, or, indeed, a leather cap decorated just like the Apache tsjagg." (Hovens 2009)


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