4 / 2002

New York State - Huron buckskin moccasin with floral beaded upper

In the Algonquian-Indian language the word "moccasin" meant soft-bottomed shoe. A single piece of hide or skin drawn up and around the foot served as a basic protective covering for many people in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas. In Europe this type of footwear became known as "opank", a Serbian word for shoe. Glass trade beads were introduced to the Indian tribes early in the seventeenth century, whereby techniques already in use for porcupine quillwork were easily adapted to accommodate this exciting new medium of artistic expression. Later on, silk ribbons became available through trade too. It is among the Great Lakes tribes that the combined use of beads and ribbons as an art formreached its apogee, even until today. Above moccasin represents a fine example of this art. The silk piping along the cuffs' edges continues to function as ties on the instep.

Research and text by : W.A.H.M. Habraken-Oosterhout-Holland
Illustration by : Colin Ball - Waalwijk - Holland