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Wôbanaki Man's Clothing from 1770

By 1770, some Wôbanaki people, especially those in French or English towns, were beginning to live in a manner very similar to that of the French and English. 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 man described here, who wears a few items of clothing from the French Canadian people.

Wôbanaki people did not have special clothing for sleeping. They would sleep 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 without clothing.

Hairstyles differed from group to group. In general, men living further north tended to keep their hair longer because the climate was cooler. Hairstyles would also change over the course of one’s life to reflect personal taste, or to signify alliance or mourning.

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 edge of a breechclout might be decorated with ribbons, 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 1770s were wool and linen cloth, ready-made shirts and coats, knitted wool hats and mittens, felted wool hats, glass beads, silver jewelry, brass kettles, paint pigments such as vermillion, and metal axe and spear heads and knife blades. Native American people in New England would trade with the French in New France or the English in the American colonies. Items they received might come from England, France, Holland, or as far away as India. or China.

Navigate to each layer of this activity by clicking on the "Next" and "Previous" buttons. Using your cursor, roll over each image to learn about the unfamiliar clothing. (requires Flash Player)

Non-flash, non-interactive, printable version of this activity

For supported devices, get Flash Player.

 

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