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ca. 1870-1890 NORTHERN PLAINS FULLY BEADED MOCCASINS – SINEW SEWN - VERY ATTRACTIVE PAIR:  This is a beautiful set of fully beaded moccasins judged to date from the last three decades of the 19th Century.    

The moccasins measure a full 10” long and are 3 Ľ” wide at the ball of the foot, certainly made for an adult.  This pair has a definite narrow profile, a feature that is often seen in Cheyenne moccasins.  Coupled with the color combination and the extremely small size of the beads, I am inclined to hazard the guess that these are indeed Cheyenne moccasins.  Due to the crushing defeats experienced by the Cheyenne and the loss of so much of their material culture, very little survives today as compared to the larger amounts of material which has survived from many of the other tribes such as the Lakota and Crow.   

The beadwork features full coverage in a pleasant combination of colors, incorporating the well known “buffalo track” design element on the insteps, surrounded with mountain or lodge pattern elements.  The beadwork is in very good condition overall, with some minor loss in scattered areas as can be seen in the photographs below.  The points of bead loss are isolated to single strands and in no way affect the presentation or continuity of the designs – for a pair of this age and showing period use, the loss is negligible. The colors of beads include a dark bottle glass green, rose-white lined, and dark blue.  The simplicity of the design elements, the colors of the beads and the tiny Italian seed beads all argue for this pair being made before the later reservation period when the design elements became more complex.  The beadwork was executed in animal sinew, as was the assembly of the moccasins.  

Around the ankle of each moccasin is attached a separate band of light weight native tanned leather to which is sewn a series of brass trade bells, also known as “hawk” bells.  While all the rest of the bells are of the standard pattern obtained through the trading posts, the bell on the right front corner of the foot opening on the right moccasin is fashioned from a Connecticut State Militia button. The decoration with the bells is unique feature not often seen on these moccasins and the militia button turned into a bell is a interesting example of how the Native Americans adapted various items of European culture to their own use.   

These moccasins both show some minor wear, indicating this pair was worn on a regular basis for some time before being acquired as a keepsake.  The rawhide soles of both moccasins show evidence of wear and the imprint of the owner’s feet.  The sole of the left moccasin is in excellent condition, completely intact with no holes.  The sole of the right moccasin has a wear spot across the heel, indicating the original owner may have had an injured leg which caused their heel to drag.  There is an old repair to this wear spot, executed in old rawhide and sinew, perhaps done contemporary to the time this pair was still being worn.  Otherwise, the remainder of this right sole is in excellent condition, completely intact with no other holes.  

The native tanned hide uppers are in very good condition, still soft and supple, and show the same wear consistent with the condition of the soles.  There is an old repair to the upper cuff of the right moccasin, on the inside of the foot just above the heel.  This repair was executed after the moccasin was collected and the wear was likely caused by the same affliction which caused the wear to the heel of the sole.  The repair is well done and is not particularly noticeable being on the inside of the moccasin.  Other than this one wear point, there are no split seams or weak points.   

I purchased this pair long ago and they have been a treasured part of my permanent collection for many years; however they no longer fit in the collection as it has changed emphasis and direction.  This is a very nice pair of early Cheyenne moccasins, made for a family member - not produced for commercial trade, and in spite of obvious signs which indicate regular daily wear, they have survived in very nice condition.  SOLD



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