Wôbanaki Woman's Clothing from 1800
By 1800, quite a few Wôbanaki people were living
in a manner very similar to that of those Americans of
European descent. They often wore the same style of clothes,
lived in the same kinds of houses, had many of the same
types of possessions, and by outward appearance, did
not appear to be dramatically different. Most Native
people, however, kept some elements of tradition, by
wearing moccasins and leggings, decorating their clothing
with silver ornaments, or keeping their hair long. Some
chose to keep traditional ways of life, and acquire just
a few European items. Such is the case for the woman
described here, who wears a few items of clothing from
the French Canadian people.
Wôbanaki people did not have special clothing
for sleeping. They slept in what seemed most suited for
the season. In the winter this would mean wearing several
layers to bed and in the hot weather one might sleep
Wôbanaki people believed it was a good idea to
protect sensitive areas of the body, such as joints,
the neck, ears and face, with jewelry, garters, and tattoos.
By these means, they believed that dangerous energy or
spirits could not enter their bodies. Jewelry with complicated
patterns, reflective surfaces, and dangling and jangling
pieces such as bells or metal cones, all helped to confuse
harmful forces. Porcupine quill embroidery, beading,
fringe, and ribbons might be added to the edges of clothing,
both to offer protection and to encourage connections
with desirable plants and animals.. For instance, the
hem of a skirt might be decorated with ribbon, or the
flaps on a pair of moccasins might be decorated with
beads or porcupine quill embroidery.
Among the numerous items available through trade in
the 1800s were wool, linen, silk, and cotton cloth, ready-made
shirts, knitted wool hats and mittens, glass beads, silver
jewelry and metal axe heads and knife blades. Native
American people in New England would trade with European
people in either Canada or the United States. Items they
received might come from England, France, Holland, or
as far away as India and China.
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Non-interactive, printable version of this activity
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