Inunaina (Arapaho) or Tsistsistas / Suhtai (Cheyenne)
- About 1910–40
- Native-tanned and smoked cow hide, rawhide, glass beads, sinew, and thread
- 3 3/4 × 9 7/16 × 3 7/16 in.
Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College: Gift of Guido R. Rahr, Sr., Class of 1951P; 985.47.26636visibilityLook & Discuss
Moccasins, soft leather shoes without a separate heel, are a Native American invention. Most indigenous groups in North America wore some type of moccasin to protect their feet from harsh surfaces and cold or wet weather. The form has endured. Moccasins come in all shapes, colors, and sizes, but within each tribe, there are unique forms and styles.
Explore the Object
These moccasins would have covered the entire foot and were secured with a leather thong around the ankle. The open block pattern on the vamp, or top of the moccasin, is used by Central Plains groups including the Tsistsistas (Cheyenne), Inunaina (Arapaho) and Lakota. The leather around the sole and ankle are not beaded because these parts of the moccasin would have received the most use.
Some moccasins, like these, have beaded soles. European settlers once believed that moccasins with beaded soles were made for the dead. They erroneously referred to these moccasins as “burial” moccasins. Historical photographs of Native Americans wearing moccasins with beaded soles, however, show that they were not created for those who had died. A viewer would get a peek at the soles when the wearer was sitting on a horse or on the ground with legs extended. A child would have worn these fully beaded shoes for a very special occasion.
Activity: Connoisseurship (Kon-ah-SOOR-ship)
Experts identify moccasins by culture based on the shape, construction, and beadwork that each group preferred. This identification becomes challenging, however, because each pair of moccasins also exhibits individual variations.
What do these Tsistsistas / Suhtai (Cheyenne) moccasins have in common? How is each pair unique?
How well do you remember what you learned? Can you identify the culture that created each of the following moccasins? (Click on each image and the corresponding caption to check your answer.)
Watch this series of videos to see A’aaninin (Gros Ventre) curator Joe Horse Capture discuss Plains moccasins in the museum’s collection.