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Moccasins

kwaiitryąh ch’ok “pointed moccasins”
Language: Gwich'in

With Christmas (Little Day) and New Year (Big Day) drawing near, each mother was busy making beaded moccasins for each child, for her husband and herself for the holidays. What an array of footwear when they did their Indian dances. The custom in those days was that everyone in your family had to have a new pair of beaded moccasins or boots, whether you had twelve children or one.

—Eunice Carney, from “A Special Gift,” 1997

This pair of Gwich’in caribou-skin moccasins has pointed toes, wraparound ankles made of soft tanned hide and black wool tongue panels. The floral designs were worked in glass beads with fancy metal beads inserted at the tips of leaves and petals. Making moccasins begins with brain-tanned caribou or moose skin. Beadwork starts with a sketched outline of the design, and the pattern is then filled in, stitching the beads with sinew, nylon thread, or dental floss. Women make moccasins and other beaded items for special occasions, including memorial potlatches, dances and festivals, and the birth of a baby.

Culture: Athabascan
Region: Headwaters of Porcupine River, Yukon Territory, Canada
Object Category: Clothing
Dimensions: Length 26cm
Accession Date: 1917
Source: Donald A. Cadzow (collected)
Museum: National Museum of the American Indian
Museum ID Number: 059549.000