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Map of Different Mocassins by Tribe
Ojibway, Pucker-Top and Soft-Soled Moccasin (Woodland Tribes)
The Sioux or Hard-Sole Moccasin (Plains Tribes)
How to Make Mocassins--- Links
How to Care For Moccasins
Warrior Moccasin Project


     Traditional Native American clothing varied widely from tribe to tribe, but one nearly universal element was the moccasin, a sturdy slipper-shaped type of shoe sewn from tanned leather.

     The word "moccasin" comes from an Algonquian word (also spelled mocasin, mocassin, moccassin, or mocussin, depending on the language and transcriber), but that is only because Algonquians were the first Indians encountered by Europeans--they were used as footwear from Sonora to Saskatchewan, and though "moccasins" may be understood and accepted by all of them at this point, most Indian tribes have their own native word for them.

     All American Indian moccasins were originally made of soft leather stitched together with sinew. Though the basic construction of Native American moccasins was similar throughout North America, moccasin patterns were subtly different in nearly every tribe, and Indian people could often tell each other's tribal affiliation simply from the design of their shoes. (In fact, the common names of some large nations like the Blackfoot and the Chippewas refer to their characteristic moccasin styles.)

     Tribal differences included not only the cut of the moccasins, but also the extensive beadwork, quillwork, and painted designs many Indian people lavished on their shoes. In some tribes hardened rawhide was used for the sole for added durability, and in others rabbit fur (or, later, sheepskin) was used to line the leather moccasins for added warmth.

Go to this MAP at

Click on the red dots to see pictures of actual moccasins.
     Plains Indian women also wore moccasin boots sometimes, which were basically just women's thigh-length leggings sewn to their moccasins for a one-piece look (very beautiful when fully quilled). Heavier-duty boots called mukluks were the invention of the Inuit (Eskimos), who made them of sealskin, fur, and reindeer hide; some subarctic Indian tribes adapted the mukluk style through trade or other contact with the Inuit, using caribou or buckskin instead.

     Native American moccasin design has stood the test of time; not only are moccasins still being made and worn in many Indian tribes today, but they have also passed into the American mainstream, and both hard-soled moccasin shoes and soft-soled moccasin slippers are mass-produced by hundreds of non-native shoe stores now.
Circa 1890
Chippewa moccasins with one piece front seam, beaded vamp inserts and cuffs.
     Soft-soled moccasins, often constructed from a single piece of leather were common in the Eastern Forests and were made by bringing up the sole of the shoe around the foot and puckering or patching the material around the instep. Soft-soled center seam and pucker-toe moccasins were well suited to travel through woodlands with leaf and pine-needle covered ground. This was usually made of three pieces, each a different kind of leather -the sole of the heaviest moosehide, the ankle flaps of thin, soft buckskin, and the inset or tongue of the finest caribou leather, elaborately decorated. Some soft-soled moccasins from the Plains and Northwest Coast were made from one piece but they were sewed along one the side of the foot rather than the center.

     When rough-and-ready Ojibway moccasins are needed both of the pair are alike--there are no lefts or rights. But a fine pair of moccasins commonly has the tongues decidedly right and left--this gives a much more elegant and fitted appearance.

     Woodland moccasins were often decorated, usually in floral or zoomorphic designs, on the instep or tongue portion, woodland decorationdid not usually cover the sides of the moccasin. The flap or added cuff around the ankle was also often decorated, or worn upright and held in place by thongs wrapped around the ankle. A separate beaded or quilled piece of velvet or leather was sometimes sewn on top of the cuff or tongue portion. These decorated panels could be easily removed from the moccasins when the soles wore out, and sewn onto a new pair.
Circa 1890 Cheyenne moccasins with Thunderbid motif on vamp.
     Hard-sole moccasins, usually made from two or more pieces of hide, are often associated with the western plains and deserts areas. The hard sole of shaped rawhide and fitted leather upper required more tailoring than other moccasin varieties. Hard-soled moccasins were important to protect feet from harsh cactus or prairie-grass covered ground, and sharp rocks not worn down by water. The turned up toe of many two-piece moccasins (like that of the Apache) prevented sharp objects from running into the seams and injuring the foot. The chief peculiarity of this mocassin is the thick, hard sole, often made with rawhide.

     This type of moccasin is always in rights and lefts.

     Plains moccasins often left the cuff undecorated, but geometric bead and quillwork patterns often decorated the instep portion, or around the circumference near the sole. Some Plains designs covered the entire top of the moccasin from the heel to the toe. Moccasins worn for marriage were often completely covered in beads. For Plains peoples preparedness in the afterlife, many moccasins worn into burial were fully beaded even on the bottom of the soles.
HOW TO MAKE MOCCASINS--- Below are Links to Sites that have Moccasin Patterns and Instructions on how to make moccasins.
  How to Make a Pucker-Top Moccasin: 

How to Make Hard Sole Mocassin: 

How to Make a Pair of Woodlands Style Moccasins with Fur Trim. 

One-Piece, Soft-Sole, Center-Seam Moccasins

Nebraska Trailblazer #1

Soft Sole Plains Moccasins 

Children's Craft Project-Plains Indian Moccasins

    Moose, elk, deer and cow hide benefit greatly from a leather conditioner and we highly recommend that you apply this before you wear your moccasins. It will protect against scuffs and act as a barrier against most stains and dirt.

    We suggest Leather Lano Cream made with natural products. It has a pleasant Eucalyptus fragrance to freshen your footwear. Available in regular and extra large.

     When dirty take a moistened cloth with a mild soap and clean both inside and outside. DO NOT SOAK. Allow the moccasin to dry in a cool place away from the hot sun or heat registers.

     Suede sheepskin moccasins can be cleaned with a damp cloth without soaking. Alternatively there is a special suede eraser that can be used to remove stubborn stains.

These recommendations come from: 
National Native American Veterans Association (NNAVA)

     A Native American tradition, especially among the Plains Tribes, was that any time a warrior went to battle he would wear only new moccasins. The reason for this was the new moccasins were to help insure his safe return home from the upcoming battle. Should he be killed or seriously injured, the new moccasins would ease his transition into the afterlife. The Warrior Moccasin Project draws from that tradition and honors the sacrifice being made by our Native American troops currently serving in harms way in the Middle East.

     Each pair of moccasins are hand made from deer hide and decorated with hand beading on the vamp of the moccasin. Each pair is blessed and smudged according to tradition. Included with each pair of moccasins is an informational sheet explaining the reason for the gift of the moccasins being passed to the service member and a combination of other healing herbs.

     Moccasins are free to NNAVA members, non NNAVA members may be charged a minimal fee to defray the cost of materials and shipping.

     All work is done by volunteers with no renumeration for their efforts.

     Donations of time and/or materials is always welcome.

To Apply. Volunteer. Donate. Ask A Question.


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