The British Museum's collections, £16.99
Purchased through the
AOA Ethno 2003.Am.19,18a-b
Africa, Oceania, Americas
From the Northern Plains, North
Before AD 1825
Moccasins of this type have raw hide soles and tanned skin uppers. The soles are often made of worn-out parfleches (storage bags), with the painted design placed inside. This pair is highly decorated with beads, particularly blue ones. They are a valuable type, known as 'pony' beads, made by blowing a thin cane of glass, breaking the cane and then rolling and polishing the finished product. Most beads in the early nineteenth century were made in Venice. At this time blue beads were considered 'like gold' by explorers such as Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who crossed the continent in 1804-6.
Traditionally women would devote much of their lives to making moccasins. During one woman's life-time, she might make thousands of pairs. Moccasins were much traded, often unfinished so that they could be fitted to the purchaser's feet.
J.C.H. King, First peoples, first contacts: (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)