Wôbanaki Boy's Clothing from 1800
By 1800, quite a few Wôbanaki people were living
in a manner very similar to those Americans and Canadians
of European descent. They often wore the same styles
of clothes, lived in the same kinds of houses and had
many of the same types of possessions. Many 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 to acquire just
a few European items, like the boy described here, who
wears a few items of clothing from the French Canadian
As a very young boy or girl, a Wôbanaki child
might wear only a breechclout or nothing at all in the
warm weather. Otherwise, children would dress like their
parents. Wôbanaki people slept in what was most
suited to the season. In the winter this would mean wearing
several layers to bed; in hot weather a child might sleep
Among the numerous items for trade in the 1800s were
wool, linen, silk, and cotton cloth, ready-made shirts
and coats, knitted wool hats and mittens, felted wool
top hats, 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
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Breechclout or Breechcloth
A breechclout, called “adhozoan”, is a strip of
fabric or deerskin that goes between the legs and is held in
place by a belt tied around the waist. The breechclout might
be compared to modern-day shorts, underwear, or bathing suit.
This boy's breechclout is made of wool.
This boy's shirt is made of cotton. In Abenaki, a shirt is
called “wihibaks”. It is the same style that European
boys would wear, but theirs would be tucked into their
When worn by a British or French military officer, a "gorget" was
a badge of office, signifying that the man was not a common
soldier. Wôbanaki people liked to wear gorgets simply
for adornment. People cut up brass kettles received in trade
to make their own gorgets. This boy wears a large gorget, or "arenarakk8i-psk8s8ann" made
from a brass kettle and a smaller gorget of silver.
These are silver armbands, called “wpedinibial”,
worn for decoration.
This is a silk kerchief. The silk would have been imported
from India. The Abenaki borrowed the English word for silk,
calling it “silki”.
These are summer-weight moccasins with a center seam.
They are made from the hide of a white-tailed deer. The Abenaki
word for all kinds of shoes is "mkezenal". The
English adapted this word into “moccasin”.
These are wool 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. It is interesting to note that wool cloth
used for clothing by Native people at this time was usually
either red or blue.
Sash & Garters
This boy wears a sash around his waist and garters, called “kiganibial.” Tied
on just under his 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 using
only the fingers, instead of on a loom. The garters help to
keep the boy's leggings in place.
A "toque" is a French term for a knitted wool cap.
The Abenaki call these “antigwal”.
The French call this kind of hooded overcoat a "capot".
The Abenaki people call a coat like this a "kchi pikizon".
It overlaps in front to button at the shoulder, and a sash
holds it closed at the waist. This capot is made of wool. Capots
were originally worn by sailors as raincoats and were adapted
for use in the woods. They were very popular in the Indian
A hatchet might be kept handy by tucking it into a belt.
It would be used for splitting and cutting kindling. The
Abenaki word for a single-handed club or hatchet is "temahigan".
The English adapted this word into “tomahawk”.
Knife & Model Toboggan
The model toboggan shown here is made of ash splint,
the same material used for making baskets. This boy
might have made it to sell to tourists. His knife is especially
designed for carving canoe ribs or wide boards. The
Abenaki word for a toy toboggan is "tôbangansis",
meaning little sled.
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