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Indian Dress in Early America

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Social Studies Age Levels Middle School (13 to 15 years old), High School (16 to 18 years old), Post-Secondary, Adults

This collection displays a variety of ceremonial dress used by indigenous people in North America before 1830. Through these objects and primary documents, we see that not only are North American Indians diverse and well-adapted to their particular environments, but that European-descended collectors admired the skill of Indian artisans even as they sought to displace them.

Women are not often discussed as part of the diplomatic and political worlds of Native America, and far fewer images of Native women exist, but in fact these materials show that women served as key players in helping Native peoples and Europeans understand one another. Through their labor sewing, tanning hides, and cutting cloth, Native women helped societies and cultures survive colonialism. 

Lava For Dressing Skins

NMNH - Anthropology Dept.

Knitting Sheath

Winterthur Collections

Allegories of the Four Continents

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

The Nativity

Smithsonian American Art Museum

[Various articles of Winnebago ceremonial clothing]

National Anthropological Archives


NMNH - Anthropology Dept.

Cornhusk Doll

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Portrait of an Indian Woman

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation