Time to Give Thanks: A Mini Guide to Traditional Native American Clothing and Accessories

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Indigenous-made footwear has nearly always been a response to the environment. , Some forms of footwear are decorated or made in such a way to convey social status. In hot parts of Arizona, sandals made of Yucca are an example of such a response.

"Moccasins, mukluks, and sandals are incredibly comfortable. Many non-Native pioneers wore Native-made footwear because it was far more comfortable (and more suitable for the environment and elements here in America) than the clunky ill-fitting European shoes," says Metcalfe.

Glass beads started adorning leather footwear in the 16th century and trade for such items "exploded once the railroads come about." Says Jaclyn Roessel, Director of Education at the Heard Museum and creator of the "Grownup Navajo" blog.

Some moccasins can be worn everyday while others are worn for specific purposes. Moccasins with beading on the bottom, for example, are worn during ceremonies where the wearer is sitting for long periods of time.

Today, many hoop dancers and those who wear moccasins often, continually make changes to ensure comfort---like adding rubber to the soles. Roessel relates that gel inserts are popular additions to Navajo moccasins. Additionally, artists like Teri Greeves, Kiowa, make highly elaborate beaded moccasins and sneakers. Because many Native people don't wear moccasins everyday, wearing them during a special ceremony- like Kinaalda (the Navajo puberty ceremony for girls) often adds both a level of education and cultural intimacy.

On November 15, hundreds if not thousands of Native people (and some non Native people)"Rocked their Mocs" and wore Native American-made footwear "as a celebration of our identities, our cultural traditions, our beautiful aesthetic practices, and our Indigenous technologies," relates Metcalf. The hashtag "#rockyourmocs" exploded on Twitter and Instagram.

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Kate Crowley
Contact: Kate Crowley