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    What's the difference between a fancy outfit and a commonplace one? They both serve the same purpose, don't they? Yes, they serve the same purpose, but not the same function. For instance both a Timex and Rolex serve the same purpose, they both tell time, but the Rolex possesses a status the Timex is devoid of.

    The costume on your left (pardon the faded look, these were scanned long ago when I didn't know what I was doing) is made of the same material as is a simple costume. The difference is in the workmanship and the time consuming details that have been added. The vest and apron is no different then those pictured in the Odds and Ends page, but the added beading and tassels causes this costume to stand out in comparison to the others.

    The leggings also have an added appeal with their flared appearance (the leggings themselves fit rather tightly, the flare is added material forming a kind of chaps like the cowboys wore to keep their legs from being torn up by the brush along the trail).




    Unlike the plains Indian costume pictured above, this one is a woodland Indian design depicting flowers and vines and other non-ridged objects. The style of the two costumes are much the same, but the final appearance of them is strikingly different. Compare the apron of this costume to the very plain apron below it. The difference isn't in the material used, though there is a big difference in that it's velveteen I used here, but in the added detail. Here I used embroidery thread for making the designs. The Indians of the plains would have used paint or beads. The woodland Indians (as would those elsewhere) might have used porcupine quills died various colors for their designs. Beads as we know them were non-existent to the Native Americans until they were brought over by traders from other countries. Natural products were therefore used, which. among others, is a reason few of the older pieces survived the times.




    The tassels are nothing more than pieces of yarn folded over a piece of tying thread, then wrapped at the top and trimmed to length. The Indians used whatever was available. We think of them as the great conservationists. This is not necessarily so. If they had plastic bags, they would have used them just as we do. They used in their designs anything they considered pretty or attractive, and they followed their own tastes as we do. The difference between them and those of us of modern society is they respected nature to the point of worshiping it (at times and in some ways, as it has been with mankind since the Tower of Babel), and they respected the animals that gave their life so the Indian could prolong his.

    There's a story of a family of Indians who received a visitor. Being the good host Native Americans are reputed to be, the host offered some salmon to his guest, with the warning that none of the bones be broken or lost. After the meal the host sent his two sons to the river with the bones. The boys returned, but one had a missing arm. The lodge was searched until the missing bone was located, and the boys ventured to the river, and returned again, this time both boys being complete. These were the salmon people, the people who sacrifice themselves for us.

    The Indians tended to be ancestor worshipers, not as we associate them or as are the Indians of India, but they held animals in high regard believing that some are their ancestors, and that all mankind came through the process of having once been animals. First came those under the earth, having no eyes because there was no light under the surface of the earth. Then came the mole people who lived both under the earth, and above it. Then came the animal kingdom, where we have so many colorful stories about the trickster fox and other popular stories. 




    There were men referred to as "A man of soft moccasins." As it is in any cultures a person is treated with respect when he gives respect, he is loved if he offers love to others. In the days of old people of the land, the Indians, wore leather garments, this being especially true of their footwear. We all know that a good pair of shoes made with soft leather is preferred over a common pair right off the shelf. Leather in ancient days were softened by chewing, the action of the teeth on the leather, and the saliva produces, caused the leather to become limp and pliable. This was not a task a person would take on willingly. For a man to wear moccasins treated in this manner meant that his "woman" thought well of him, and this in turn meant that he treated her well.



    On another page of this section I told of the difficulty historians have finding the truth. Truth is not obtainable to man because we by nature reject truth even when it's forced down our throat. Consider the Bible as a for-instance. It is the same as it was 2,000 years ago, and more than half of the Bible extends thousands of years beyond that. The Bible is over a thousand pages of non-conflicting information, given to us through pictures, parables, and outright demonstration. Every aspect of our life and what is expected of us is presented in various ways. Yet we are unable to see what is being said. We all believe we see the truth, but the truth we see is very different than the truth thousands of others see. Mankind is created intellectually blind, but he imagines himself to be the only one who sees. My father at the end of his life was totally blind. Yet he insisted that he could see things at the feet of other people that they couldn't see. The blinder we are, the more certain we are that we are the only ones with vision.

    We will never know the truth about the American Indians, if for no other reason than that we enjoy the fables that have been presented to us, and truth would only interfere with our distorted images. "My mind is made up, don't confuse me with the facts."



    Costumes don't have to be expensive or elaborate to be attractive. These on the left are made simply, the sides fastening with ties rather than being sewn at the seams. The shirt pattern used was provided lots of extra material that was cut into fringes. Even the sleeves are not seamed but are tied with pieces of leather. The shirt is more of a front and back fastened at the neck, similar to how a sheet is cut when Junior wants to be a ghost on Halloween.



    Instead of beads or embroidery, paint was applied to fabric. The costume on the left has no backing to the paint but rather the paint is applied, in simple triangles, to the bare fabric (suede cloth in this case). The other costume has a strip of canvas over the shoulders and is painted white as a background for the simple painted designs. This is an effective and fairly simple way of making a costume, and in fitting with the manner some were created in the days old.

    The sash is a piece of thick fabric, The legging are not full trousers, but fit over the legs and extend up the side where they fasten to a belt of some nature. All the leggings are made this way, although a pair of trousers can be converted into a pair of leggings by adding fringe at the seam, or a flap as shown in the previous pictures, or a strip of colorful material as depicted here.

    The costume on your right was made by an 11 year old boy on an old treadle sewing machine, having been designed by him out of the many reference books at his disposal.


    Some costumes are elaborate, but not as complete as the ones shown above. Here are two examples of pieces intended for dance, not for general wear. The costume on the right is a Crow bustle (named after the people, not the bird, even though it's crow feathers adorning the bustle). The other is a decorated double trail that is generally worn under a highly feathered and flared bustle. These are worn by what are called "Fancy dancers," who wear simple but colorful cotton shirts and boxer shorts that add to the spectacular display.

   The Native American was not without imagination. This, and the fact that there were so many different cultures represented in the New Land, provides for a great array of picturesque costumes and customs. This bone breastplate is an example of their ability to create beauty and functionality.
    As with all cultures before the Industrial Revolution, the Summer half of the year was spent preparing for the Winter season when nothing could be done other than live off that which had been prepared earlier, and hiding from the inclement weather. As a boy living on my grandfather's farm I learned the ways of our ancestors. Summer vacation did not mean having nothing to do but be in the way and cause trouble, but it was a time that, in addition to the many daily chores, we were sent into the fields and spent the hot days picking cherries, hops, strawberries and green beans in order to earn the money to buy our school books and the clothes needed to protect our growing bodies.
    The Indian was no different. During the cold Winter months they would use their time adding to and repairing their meager belongings. While the men were out hunting game, the women would be making and decorating their clothing, this being nearly all they owned. Time afforded the Indian during the winter accounts for the highly decorative clothing and other possessions.
    When I traveled by bicycle, carrying all I owned in bags draped over a rack attached to my bike, I learned the value and importance of maintaining what little I possessed. It wasn't in the accumulation of goods that wealth is had, but in the quality of what's had that's important. We've lost this appreciation for the small things in this age of plenty and worthlessness. It's not the purpose and functionality of what we possess that we value today, but how big it is, how expensive it is, and how impressed others are with what we own that we place our sense of value on.



    Unlike the previous breast plate, this Crow loop necklace is made with small bone (plastic in this case) disks strung on a thin waxed string.
     We are a wasteful society. We throw away more than we consume. The food we discard could possibly feed the poor of the world, or at least a huge portion of it. When the wheat fields were producing too much crop, and the farmers were concerned that this abundance would cause their harvest to bring in less income, the government paid the farmers to burn their crop and not plant for the coming years. When beef was in abundance, people were paid to destroy the cows in order to keep the price of beef high. We are a wasteful people, concerned more for the almighty dollar than for the starving of this world.
    The Native American, for the most part (this, like any rule, is not all inclusive as the Potlatches of the Northwest Indians clearly demonstrate) were not wasteful. The used every part of what they had at their disposal. For instance the sinew of an animal was used for sewing, the hooves and horns were either made into ornaments or utensils, or they were boiled and used for glue. The teeth of many animals, as were the claws, were used for decorating clothing. The feathers were used for ornaments or for stuffing of clothing for warmth. Scraps of food were not thrown away but given to the dogs that were ever present (and often ever barking or howling). The hides of the animals were made into clothing and tepee covers. The bladders and the stomachs were dried and used for carrying water like a canteen. We find this utility of nature in other third-world countries even today. This and other "civilized" countries being devoid of appreciation for what God has given to us, look down our noses at those who use, respect, and appreciate every little thing God has allowed us to use of His creation.

   If you haven't yet tired of my commentaries, something I had no intention of including, check out the next page of this section (the "next" thumb below). Maybe I'll stick to the subject at hand, but don't count too heavily on it.



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