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History >> Native Americans for Kids

Native American clothing prior to the arrival of Europeans was different depending on the tribe and the climate where the tribe lived. However, there were some general similarities.



What materials did they use?

The primary material used by Native Americans in their clothing was made from animal hides. Generally they used the hides of the animals they hunted for food. Many tribes such as the Cherokee and Iroquois used deerskin. While the Plains Indians, who were bison hunters, used buffalo skin and the Inuit from Alaska used seal or caribou skin.

Some tribes learned how to make clothing from plants or weaving thread. These included the Navajo and Apache, who learned how to make woven blankets and tunics, and the Seminole of Florida.

How did they make the clothes?

All of their clothes were made by hand. The women would generally make the clothes. First they would tan the animal skin. Tanning is a process that would turn the animal skin into leather which would last a long time and not decompose. Then they would need to cut and sew the leather into a piece of clothing.

Decorations

Often times clothing would be decorated. The Native Americans would use feathers, animal fur such as ermine or rabbit, porcupine quills, and, after the Europeans arrived, glass beads to decorate their clothes.

What clothing did the men wear?

Most Native American men wore a breechcloth. This was just a piece of material that they tucked into a belt that would cover the front and back. In many areas, especially areas with warm climates, this was all the men wore. In cooler climates, and in the winter, the men would wear leggings to cover up and keep their legs warm. Many men went shirtless throughout much of the year, only wearing cloaks when it got very cold. The Plains Indian men were known for their elaborate and decorated war shirts.

Native American clothing
Men often wore no shirts and a breechcloth


What clothing did Native American women wear?

The Native American women generally wore skirts and leggings. Often they wore shirts or tunics as well. In some tribes, like the Cherokee and the Apache, the women wore longer buckskin dresses.

The Moccasin

Most Native Americans wore some kind of footwear. This was usually a shoe made of soft leather called a moccasin. In the cold northern areas like Alaska, they wore a thick boot called a mukluk.

moccasin shoe


Later Changes

When the Europeans arrived many of the American Indian tribes were forced into contact with each other. They began to see how others dressed and took the ideas that they liked. Soon many tribes began to dress more alike. Woven blankets, fringed buckskin tunics and leggings, and feather headdresses became popular among many tribes.

Fun Facts about Native American Clothing

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For more Native American history:

Culture and Overview
Agriculture and Food
Native American Art
American Indian homes and Dwellings
Homes: The Teepee, Longhouse, and Pueblo
Native American Clothing
Entertainment
Roles of Women and Men
Social Structure
Life as a Child
Religion
Mythology and Legends
Glossary and Terms

History and Events
Timeline of Native American History
King Philips War
French and Indian War
Battle of Little Bighorn
Trail of Tears
Wounded Knee Massacre
Indian Reservations
Civil Rights

Tribes
Tribes and Regions
Apache Tribe
Blackfoot
Cherokee Tribe
Cheyenne Tribe
Chickasaw
Cree
Inuit
Iroquois Indians
Navajo Nation
Nez Perce
Osage Nation
Pueblo
Seminole
Sioux Nation

People
Famous Native Americans
Crazy Horse
Geronimo
Chief Joseph
Sacagawea
Sitting Bull
Sequoyah
Squanto
Maria Tallchief
Tecumseh
Jim Thorpe

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