An analysis of the social, economic,
and political factors that helped determine the dress and
adornment of the Indians indigenous to the Southeastern
part of the United States from pre-European contact until
the beginning of the twentieth century.
The following is a synopsis of the book. Its
purpose is to paint a very brief picture of the evolution
of the dress and adornment of the Southeast Indians so that
the reader will be better able to analyze and utilize the
facts contained in this work.
At the time of first contact, the attire worn
by the Southeastern Indians was determined more by climatic
factors than by tribal affiliation. The Indians who lived
in the tropical climate of Florida used natural vegetation
to create their sparse coverings while those who lived farther
north, utilized materials that were more appropriate to
the climate and, also, more available for the creation of
The clothing of the Indians was practical
in nature. Moccasins and leggings were worn as garments
for protection. For everyday activities, the men wore little
else than a form of breechclout and the women wore a short
skirt that wrapped around their waist. The materials used
varied from palm fronds in Florida to woven or twined fabrics
made from pounded roots in southern Louisiana to fiber created
from bison hair as well as animal skins further north.
For adornment the Indians tattooed and painted
their bodies; hung decorations made from shells and other
natural materials from their ears, nose, and necks; and
adorned their head with roaches made from animal hair and
feathers. Those Indians from the more southern regions made
blankets and mantles from interwoven bird feathers while
those in the more northern areas used tanned animal skins.
When the White man first had contact with
the Indians, the former bought their allegiance with presents
of European clothes, especially in the form of shirts. The
Indians adopted these shirts early on in their interaction
with the Europeans. This trend of adding European garments
to their own continued for the next few centuries.
As the Indians continued to interact with,
first, the Europeans and, later, the Americans, as well
as to intermarry with them, they expanded their adoption
of the dress of the White man.
With the progression of time, their dress
continued to be motivated by factors other than tribal allegiances.
By the eighteenth century, their attire was determined by
socio-economic factors and by involvement with the White
man either through marriage or politics.
As the Indians added European and, then, American
garb to their early forms of dress and began to cover more
of themselves, they substituted jewelry for tattooing and
painting; many, however, still painted their bodies and
faces to portray a desire for war, peace, etc.
By the mid nineteenth century, a majority
of these Indians wore basically the garb of the White man
impregnated with small modifications and individual preferences.
A continuum can be drawn from those who dressed completely
as White men and women to those, usually full bloods, who
adopted little of the White man's clothing.
Not only did the Indians adopt the clothing
of the White man, but some White men -trappers, hunters,
and frontiersmen - adopted the breechclout, moccasins, and
leggings of the Indian males. The hunting shirt commonly
depicted with fringes and made of buckskin was an amalgamation
of articles of clothing used by the White man and the Indian.
As will be shown through out this book, while the Indians
originally from the Southeast adopted as well as adapted
much of the dress of the White man, the latter, also, configured
some of the attire of the Indians to meet his needs.