This project came about when my husband, who is part Cherokee,
and I wanted to find information on the evolution of dress of
the Five Civilized Tribes, namely, the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw,
Chickasaw, and Seminole. We discovered that the material was not
only scattered throughout books, but it was often contradictory.
The more we looked, the more confusing the information appeared.
Thus, we decided to devote the next few years, which turned into
more than a few, to trying to cull this information from the various
sources and put it together coherently.
We have relied, wherever possible, on primary sources in English
as well as in French and Spanish. Unless otherwise noted, the
actual French and Spanish translations are my own. Unfortunately,
I am not versed in German and had to rely on already translated
We found that books written in the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries were organized in a different manner than the reference
books of today. In these old books, each chapter is summarized
in one or two sentences at the beginning. Also, paragraph topics
are noted in the left hand margin. I have opted not to do the
latter; however, whenever useful, I have employed the former technique.
We have tried to organize this book into sections and chapters
that are intrinsically connected but can also stand alone so that
readers do not have to look all over the book to find related
material and can skip sections that are not relevant to them.
The book is heavily footnoted and we have used direct quotations
rather than paraphrased texts so that readers can refer to the
direct sources and find them easily if they so desire. In addition,
we have found that direct quotations lessen ambiguity and the
possibility for misinterpretation of specific information. Direct
quotations, especially from primary sources, also increase the
contextual accuracy of the information.
Upon first glance, it might appear that the book contains historical
information that is irrelevant to the main topic - dress and adornment.
However, clothing is not an isolated but an integral part of the
material and even spiritual culture of a people. Thus, if during
the removal to Indian Territory, for example, some people had
few clothes or were in a state of starvation, this condition would
have effected how they lived upon arrival, their priorities, emotional
fortitude, etc. and, in consequence, how they might have dressed.
The book is divided chronologically and along the continuum of
general to specific. We have used, as stated earlier, mainly primary
sources or nineteenth century or older secondary sources. The
only changes we have made in regards to quoting these sources
are, sometimes, in punctuation and spelling. The arrangement of
words, has obviously, never been altered. We have used the original
spelling and format when we felt it added to contextual accuracy
either directly or indirectly. The only consistent changes that
we have made are in substituting a "u" for a "v"
since in old English the letters "u" and "v"
were often reversed; One would find "vs" instead of
"us". Also we substituted the modern "s" for
the old English "s" which resembled a modern "f".
However, with the start of the eighteenth century, since so many
of the primary sources have been reproduced in modern English,
for the most part, modern forms of English are used.
I have translated the French and Spanish and, wherever pertinent,
included the original as well.
This book is not intended to interpret psychologically or otherwise
the various modes of dress and adornment of the Indians of the
southeast; its purpose is to gather information, evaluate its
reliability, and logically present the various modes of dress
among the Southeast Indians.
Whenever possible, we have tried to identify the group under
discussion both by name and geographical location because many
of the same peoples went under various names. Frederick W. Hodge
in his encyclopedic book Handbook of American Indians North of
Mexico presents the confusion succinctly. Even though his quotation
referred to the Caddoan Indians and some of the facts are specific
to them, it generally applies to all of the linguistic families
in the southeast.
"The tribes were generally loosely confederated; a few stood
alone. The tribe was subdivided, and each one of its subdivisions
had its own village, bearing a distinctive name... A village could
be spoken of in three ways: (1) By its proper name, which was
generally mythic in its significance.; (2) by its secular name,
which was often descriptive of its locality; (3) by the name of
its chief. The people sometimes spoke of themselves by one of
the names of their village, or by that of their tribe, or by the
name of the confederacy to which they belonged. This custom led
to the recording by the earliest travelers, of a multiplicity
of names, several of which might represent one community. This
confusion was augmented when not all the tribes of a confederacy
spoke the same language; in such cases a mispronunciation or a
translation caused a new name to be recorded."1
The reader cannot help but notice that some chapters devoted
to specific tribes are considerably longer than others. This variance
in length is due to the availability of material. Unfortunately,
little was written about some of the tribes while the activities
and lifestyles of others were extremely well recorded.
Readers will also notice as they continue with the book that
there is an absence of much reference to oral descriptions of
past dress and adornment. This has been a conscious choice made
by the authors. Many factors have played a part in this decision.
Many years ago, when my husband asked his Cherokee grandmother
about her heritage, she told him it was not important to his future.
We have discovered this was not an isolated incident. Only in
the past decade or so has it become fashionable to be a Native
American who remembers the past.
Another reason for this decision is that primary source material
starting in the early eighteenth century abounds with references
to the forgotten heritage of the Indians of previous generations.
These statement cannot be wholly attributed to the fact that the
Indians did not want to share their heritage with the White man
because amongst these tribes there were many mixed-bloods. However,
the disruption of cultural patterns brought about by the turbulence
of the White man's invasion created this historical void.
The material that we found determined the format for this book.
Initially, we had only planned to dress the Native Americans and
describe their attire. However, we found that that did not tell
the necessary story about dress and adornment. The concept for
the illustrations also changed as I started to create them. I
found that the verbal descriptions of much of the Indians' dress
was sufficient and I did not feel that my illustrative interpretation
was necessary. However, I found that due to language contemporary
to the period in which it was used, the depiction of European
and Euro-American dress was very necessary.
In addition, the reader must be aware that people have always
dressed in many different ways. They also have mixed contemporary
and "out of style" garments. The European and Euro-American
dress that is depicted in the book are generalizations. Other
garments could have adorned the figures or more illustrations
included, but, then, this would have been a book on Euro-American
1. Frederick Webb Hodge, Handbook of Indians North of Mexico, Bureau
of American Ethnology Bulletin, no. 30, part 1, p. 182.