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)
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