National Geographic : 1944 Jul
Indians of Our Western Plains The parfleche, a common container that largely took the place of baskets on the Plains, was made of rawhide. Stretching rawhide when wet made it thin. Repeated wettings and shrinkings made it thick, for use in the circular shields of the warriors. On the Plains, rawhide soles were placed on soft leather moccasins. In dians of the eastern Woodlands made one-piece moccasins of soft leather; southwestern and Mexican Indians wore sandals. Before the coming of the whites, the usual costume of Indian men was a small skin apron attached to a belt. The white traders brought in the breechcloth, which was worn by passing it between the legs and tucking it under the belt, fore and aft, so that it hung down a little at each end. This, with moccasins, was the nor mal dress for ordinary occasions. Long skin leggings, reaching from ankle to thigh and fastened to the belt, might be added. Apparently only ex treme northern tribes wore shirts, intro duced by Canadian Indians. In recent years, decorated skin shirts for display on dress-up occasions have been popular among all Plains tribes. Buffalo robes, made of dressed skin with the fur left on and the bare side dec orated with painting or quillwork, seem long to have been a feature of the Plains. Women Wore Elkskin Dresses While near nudity characterized the men, women were more fully clothed. In most tribes they wore a full-length sleeveless dress of elkskin or buckskin, the upper portion of which extended to drape over the shoulders in the form of a cape (page 98). They also wore leg gings which reached to the knee, where they were held by garters. Clothing was decorated by painting and by simple geometric designs formed of dyed porcupine quills. When the white traders came, colored glass beads gradually replaced the quillwork. It is usually possible to tell the date of an example of Plains beadwork, as the types of beads brought in by the traders changed from time to time. A T. J. Hieman favorite and much-valued decoration for On the Inside Looking Out women's dresses formerly consisted of the milk teeth of the elk, which were One American Indian practical invention is the baby perforated and attached to the dress by cradle, held in place by a strap around mother's shoulders. The smiling papoose is comfortable and the squaw has both sinew or thread. hands free for other tasks. The back-of the cradle is a flat The women of the Osage, Pawnee, board. Cradle styles varied from tribe to tribe.