Wôbanaki Women's Clothing from 1700
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 1700s were wool and linen cloth, ready-made shirts
and coats, knitted wool hats and mittens, glass beads,
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.
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This dress is made of deerskin with painted designs.
Tattoos were put on the body for a variety of reasons.
On men, some were marks of valor, and others were used to
cover skin injuries or were placed on powerful parts of the
body such as around the eyes, on the chest, joints, or the
fingers used to draw a bow or pull the trigger of a gun.
Tattoos were also used to deaden nerves, to relieve various
aches, and to attract healing energy to specific parts of
the body.. Generally, Wôbanaki women did not have as
many tattoos as men did.
Comb & Mirror
The comb and mirror are trade items. The mirror is called
a “pipinawiakwigan”. The comb, called a “naskuahon”,
is made of cow horn.
These are deerskin leggings, called “medasal”.
They are tied to a belt at the waist to keep them up.
Leggings were worn for warmth and to protect one's legs when walking
through scratchy undergrowth.
These are winter moccasins, made of deerskin. Unlike
the summer moccasins, which have a seam in the center
on top, winter moccasins have no center seam because
it would cause blisters when wearing snowshoes. Instead, the
seam is placed along the top edges of the moccasin. The
Abenaki word for all shoes, including moccasins, is "mkezenal".
Earrings & Bracelets
Jewelry was worn by men and women.
The earrings, “saksohanal”.
and bracelets, called “wpedinibial”, are made from a brass
kettle. There are also white shell beads on the earrings.
This woman wears a variety of necklaces. A necklace
is called a called “nôpkoan”, a thing that
circles. Several of these “nôpkoanal” are
made from glass beads and one strand is wampum, cylindrical
beads used for jewelry, ceremonies, and currency, that
are called "wôbôbial". The purple beads
are made from quahog clam shells collected from the
New England seacoast. The white beads are made from
whelk shells. She also wears a woven necklace of blue and
white glass wampum.
This is a brass spoon received in trade. It is being
worn around the neck for convenience.
Sash & Garters
This woman wears a sash around her waist
and garters, called “kiganibial”,
tied on just under her knees. The sash and garters are made from wool
yarn, using a technique called "fingerweaving". As the name
suggests, fingerweaving is a way to weave by using the fingers, instead
of weaving on a loom. The garters help to keep the woman's leggings
The French call this kind of hooded coat a "capot".
The Wôbanakiak call a large overcoat like this a "kchi
pikizon". It overlaps in front and is kept closed with
a brass hook and eye. Capots were usually kept closed
with buttons, so the hook & eye might have been a replacement.
A sash also holds the capot closed at the waist. This
capot is made of wool. Originally worn by sailors as raincoats
and adapted for use in the woods, they were very popular in
the Indian trade.
This wool blanket was received in trade and is being
used as a bedroll.
These are wool mittens received in trade. Mittens are
This is a brass kettle, received in trade from the French.
It can be used for cooking, or it can be cut up into
shiny metal to be used for jewelry.
This pouch has been decorated with white glass beads,
paint, and a tuft of deer hair dyed red. The pouch might
contain tobacco and materials needed to start a fire, such
as a steel striker and flints.
Both men and women smoked pipes, using various smoking
mixtures for healing purposes, for relaxation, and
for prayer. This pipe is made of stone.
A knife could be used for a variety of tasks, from cutting
food to carving wood or basket splints. The sheath is decorated
with white glass beads and paint. The wooden barrel-shaped
bead serves as a toggle to help keep the knife on a belt.
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