“animal leg-skin pants with attached boots”
Language: Upper Koyukon
k’edzo kkaatseeyh “animal leg-skin pants with attached boots”
Language: Central Koyukon
Region: Yukon River, Alaska
Object Category: Clothing
Object Type: Moccasin pants
Accession Date: 1869
Source: W. H. Dall (collector)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E007608
Identifying & explaining
Eliza Jones: I always used to hear about k’edzo kkaatseeyh [animal leg-skin pants with attached boots]. I think this is k’edzo kkaatseeyh.
Judy Woods: Mm-hmm, fur pants.
Eliza Jones: Yes, it covers the foot and your whole legs and all [to waist]. Do you have a word for these pants?
Trimble Gilbert: Dazhoo thał.
Eliza Jones: People traveling would wear the k’edzo kkaatseeyh. The other thing that men had before they had snow pants and stuff is just the leggings—leggings without the boots. So, did you have those kinds up there too? You know, just to cover the leg? And you wear it over your boots, so you can take it off.
And they wear it especially when they’re traveling and when it’s cold.
Trimble Gilbert: Yes, it’s really good for your knees.
Judy Woods: Tlekk.
Eliza Jones: Yes, nedenaadletlekk [it is fringed]. Normally, these [beaded fringe] would be the fringed caribou. But I guess since this is a model, they used beads. And it looks like they dyed this [skin] with something red, maybe kk’es. Kk’es is “alder.” It makes a really dark red dye.
Judy Woods: That’s what they use for moose mittens and stuff. They dye that with alder. They leave it in water, bark and stuff, and it turns orange. Then they soak them [skins], and it makes them, any of that moosekin stuff, dyes it this color.
Phillip Arrow: I see this [vertical line down front of pant leg] is the same color as that one [tunic].
Eliza Jones: The only difference is this parka was dyed and that one [pants] is more a natural color.
Trimble Gilbert: What kind of fur is that [inside tunic]?
Judy Woods: Looks like muskrat or marten.
Eliza Jones: This is red. It’s not muskrat, too red. It’s not mountain squirrel. Mountain squirrel wouldn’t be red. How about ground hog?
Trimble Gilbert: Groundhog is different too. Groundhog is grey.
Eliza Jones: It wouldn’t’ be reindeer.
Trimble Gilbert: Maybe young one.
Eliza Jones: Maybe it’s an unborn animal of some kind, maybe caribou.
I think it’s an unborn calf.
Trimble Gilbert: Yes, caribou or moose. The tail is right there.
Eliza Jones: Oh, could be, yes, because this is the—
Trimble Gilbert: White.
Eliza Jones: Yes, around the tail. So unborn fawn, caribou fawn.
Trimble Gilbert: What kind of fur is this [pants interior] anyway?
Eliza Jones: I think it’s the same thing. It’s just faded, see?
Trimble Gilbert: Yes.
[From discussion with Phillip Arrow, Trimble Gilbert, Eliza Jones and Judy Woods at the National Museum of Natural History and National Museum of the American Indian, 5/17/2004-5/21/2004. Also participating: Aron Crowell (NMNH), Kate Duncan (Arizona State University) and Suzi Jones (AMHA).]
1. In this entry, the Elders speak in different Athabascan dialects: Phillip Arrow, Deg Xinag; Trimble Gilbert, Gwich’in; Eliza Jones, Central Koyukon; and Judy Woods, Upper Koyukon.
2. This section includes information from the discussion of tunic E007607, which was discussed with moccasin pants E007608. These two items were collected together as a set of clothing.
These miniature moccasin trousers― pants with moccasin feet attached―represent the lower half of Koyukon woman’s outfit. There is a matching tunic, made as a model or possibly for a doll (see Related Objects). Both were collected by William H. Dall along the Yukon River in 1867.(1) The trousers are made from caribou fawn skin, with the hair left on and turned to the inside, representing clothing that was worn in winter.
In the past, men and women of all Alaskan Athabascan groups wore similar moccasin trousers and tunics. Along the Yukon River and its tributaries these garments were made by the Gwich’in (2), Koyukon (3), Upper Tanana (4), and Deg Hit’an.(5) In southern Alaska, both the Dena’ina and Ahtna wore this type of clothing.(6)
Moccasin trousers often had tanned caribou skin leggings and moose hide soles.(7) Hair was left on the caribou skins when making winter trousers, and turned to the inside. Upper Tanana people wore winter trousers made of mountain sheep skins and put rabbit fur inside to insulate their feet.
Moccasin trousers were originally decorated with porcupine quill embroidery and later with glass trade beads.(9) This type of garment went out of style among most Athabascans by the mid to late 19th century, replaced by pants and unattached moccasins.(10) However, some in the Upper Tanana region were still wearing moccasin trousers in 1930, and the Gwich’in were making them for children at that time.(11)
1. Dall 1870
2. Mackenzie 1801:48; McKennan 1965:45; Murray 1910:84; Osgood 1936:39-40; Richardson 1851 Vol. 1:380
3. Dall 1870:82-83; Michael 1976:244-46
4. McKennan 1959:78-80
5. Osgood 1970:262; Michael 1976:244-46
6. Allen 1887:131, Osgood 1937:46
7. McKennan 1959:78, 1965:45; Osgood 1936:39
8. McKennan 1959:78
9. VanStone 1981:11-16
10. Simeone and VanStone 1986:7
11. McKennan 1959:79; Duncan and Carney 1997:24: McKennan 1959:45