The modern day CACHE

topogrpahy

The topography of Canada and the United States, west of Lake Superior and North of the forty-second parallel, was determined between 1793 and 1812.  With the exception of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, fur traders from the American and Canadian fur trading companies did all of the early exploration. sacagaweaThese fur traders were either accompanied by Native Americans, or Native Americans told them about the major passes and routes through the Rocky Mountains.

surveyorThe French explorers who mapped the shores of America’s Great Lakes were not trained in surveying. When we look at the maps they drew, in the 1600s and 1700s, there are many mistakes.  Modern surveying had to wait, in any case, until the invention of a reliable chronometer watch that could be used to observe astronomical objects and precisely fix longitudes.  The inventor who assembled the first longitudinal chronometer was an Englishman, a Mr. John Harrison, and he and his successors sold chronometers to the “sea dogs” of the Royal Navy.  chronometerStarting in the late 1700s, the Royal Navy calibrated its chronometers by the longitude of its headquarters in Greenwich, a suburb of London, and the longitudinal numbers that flash on our GPS devices are based upon Greenwich to this day.  Determining one’s precise location, which now can be done with the push of a button or two on a smart phone, then required tedious observations of several known angles – such as the elevation of the North Star – and then complex arithmetical calculations by the light of a grimy window, a candle, or an oil lamp.

cacheThe word CACHE stirs up visions of pioneers, gold miners, pirates and FUR TRADERS. Fur traders and early explorers often “cached” their goods. When Lewis and Clark were hiring men in and around Mackinac Island’s great rival, St. Louis, in 1803; they hired many trained fur traders. Two years later in 1805, pushing up the Missouri River into what is now western Montana, these men saw the Rocky Mountains rising in front of them. They knew they would be coming back, so they carefully memorized certain sections of the riverbank, dug at least two separate holes, deposited some of the goods that they did not want to portage over the mountains, and called the holes “caches.”

lewisdiaryIn 1806 the successful explorers, who had reached and wintered on the Pacific coast, re-crossed the mountains and retrieved their hoards. Lewis was sad, however, he admitted in his journal, that at least one of the caches, containing valuable bearskins, had gotten wet and the furs were ruined. Later fur traders learned how to dig and line relatively waterproof caches by searching for patches of well-drained sandy high ground and using grease, tallow, wax, or some other waterproofing agent to try to seal valuable goods.

Each cache was buried secretly and the extra dirt was piled on a blanket or hide and taken to a stream where it could be washed away.  Other tricks to hiding a cache include digging up the floor within the walls of a tent, burying the cache and then camping over it for a period of days to tamp down the dirt and remove any sign of the hole.  Many trappers would build a campfire over the cache as well.  Sometimes, it was over a year before the trapper returned to their cache treasure mapand to find it they made rough maps, identifying a large mound of dirt over here…a unique tree over there…a big boulder…They would then note the location of the cache by pacing the distance to the cache from each identified landmark.


Let’s fast forward to the current century. Although modern technology has given ease to what was once tedious, man’s desire to seek and discover has not waned.  We experience a Bill Murray type of “Groundhog Day” each day we live by getting up, going to work, doing the sleep thing and starting all over again most days of our lives.  It’s no wonder our desire for diversity and adventure is often achieved during our “down-time” by getting ourselves lost in the great outdoors.

satelliteOn May 2, 2000, at approximately midnight, eastern savings time, twenty-four satellites around the globe simultaneously processed new orders and instantly the accuracy of GPS technology improved tenfold.

An announcement, the day before, came as a welcome surprise to everyone who worked with GPS technology. The government planned to remove selective availability of GPS completely by 2006.

Sierra Exif JPEG

Dave Ulmer, the first geocache stasher

On May 3, 2000, Dave Ulmer, a computer consultant, wanted to test the accuracy of the now publically available GPS tracking by hiding a navigational target in the woods. He called the idea the “Great American GPS Stash Hunt” and posted it on an internet GPS users’ group.  Dave placed his own container, a black bucket, in the woods by Beavercreek, Oregon, which is near to Portland. Along with a logbook and pencil, he left various prize items including videos, books, software, and a slingshot. He shared the waypoint of his “stash” with the online community on sci.geo.satellite-nav:

N 45° 17.460 W 122° 24.800

Within three days, two different readers read about his stash on the Internet, used their own GPS receivers to find the container, and shared their experiences online. Throughout the next week, others excited by the prospect of hiding and finding stashes, began hiding their own containers and posting coordinates. Like many new and innovative ideas on the Internet, the concept spread quickly.

mikeWithin the first month, Mike Teague, the first person to find Ulmer’s stash, began gathering the online posts of coordinates around the world and documenting them on his personal home page. The “GPS Stash Hunt” mailing list was created to discuss the emerging activity. Names were even tossed about to replace the name “stash” due to the negative connotations of that name.  And Geocaching was born.

GEO: for Earth, was used to describe the global nature of the activity, but also for its use in familiar topics in gps such as geography.

CACHE:  The French word invented in 1797, referred to a hiding place someone would use to temporarily store items.

For the first few months, geocaching was confined to existing experienced GPS users who already used the technology for outdoor activities such as backpacking and boating. Those users had an existing knowledge of GPS and a firm grasp of the obscure lingo used. New players had a steep learning curve before going out on their first cache hunt and tools were initially scarce for this new game.

miketeaguejeremyirish

Brian Roth, Jeremy Irish and Elias Alvord

Jeremy Irish, a web developer for a Seattle company, stumbled upon Mike Teague’s website in July 2000 while doing research on GPS technology. The idea of treasure hunting and using tech-gadgets represented the marriage of two of his biggest interests. Discovering one was hidden nearby; Jeremy purchased his first GPS unit and went on his first hunt the following weekend.

After experiencing the thrill of finding his first cache, Irish decided to start a hobby site for the activity. Adopting the term geocaching, he created Geocaching.com and applied his professional web skills to create tools to improve the cache-hunting experience. The cache listings were still added by hand, but a database helped to standardize the listings. Additional features, like searching for caches around zip codes, made it easier for new players to find listings for nearby caches.

With Mike Teague’s valuable input, the new site was completed and announced to the stash-hunting community on September 2, 2000. At the time the site was launched there were a mere 75 known caches in the world.

slashdotSlashdot, a popular online magazine for techies, reported the new activity on September 25, 2000, introducing a larger group of technology professionals to the activity. The New York Times picked up the story and featured it in its “Circuits” section in October, starting a domino effect of articles written in magazines, newspapers, and other media outlets around the world. CNN even did a segment in December 2000 to profile the new hobby.

The growing community chanted the mantra “If you hide it, they will find it” to the newer players. After some reassurances, pioneers of the hobby started placing caches just to see whether people would go find them. They did.

Through word of mouth, press articles, and even accidental cache discoveries, more and more people have become involved in geocaching. First started by technology and GPS enthusiasts, the ranks of geocachers now include couples, families, and groups from all walks of life. The excitement of the hunt appeals to both the inner (and outer) child. Today you can do a search on just about anywhere in the world and be able to walk, bike, or drive to a nearby hidden cache.

geocachelogoGeocaching is a real-world treasure hunt that’s happening right now; all around you using GPS enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache hidden at that location.  There are now 2,590,242 active geocaches and over 6 million geocachers worldwide.

See!  Everyone, at heart, wants to be a Mountain Man!

laketown01There are also no less than 54 caches hidden in or around Laketown, UT. All you need is a smart phone and the coordinates to the cache, which may be found here:

https://www.geocaching.com/play/search/@41.82549,-111.32243?origin=Laketown+utah

meritbadgeIf you are bringing your family up to camp and visit the Rendezvous, consider giving geocaching a go. If you have a boy scout in your family, they can earn a merit badge for participating.  This is a FUN, FUN activity for the entire family!

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A much younger Dana finding her first cache! July 2001

Dana is a member of Groundspeak and Geocaching.com.  If you have any initial questions about this activity, please feel free to leave a comment below and she will reply.  Or, you may contact her by email with your questions:

dana@bearlakerendezvous.com

The 1828 Sweet Lake (Bear Lake) Rendezvous

“None of the mountain rendezvous has (sic) been more obscure than the gathering of 1828.”
~Dale Morganmural14-large

Phillip Covington was born in North Carolina on December 1803. He moved to Kentucky, where he became a school teacher.  Then, at the age of 23, he left his Kentucky home for the far western edge of Missouri.

Fast forward to 1879: Covington wrote a manuscript about his adventures in the mountains for the Greeley Colorado Sun. His lively account is quite informative and provides a lot of “new” information about the Rocky Mountain fur trade, fills in gaps, corrects assumptions and tells us more than we ever knew about the 1828 Sweetwater Rendezvous.

william subletteCovington relates that William Sublette arrived in Lexington on September 15, 1827 with a train of pack mules, laden with beaver, to meet William Ashley’s party from St. Louis, who had several wagon loads of goods and groceries ready for transport. Sublette advertised for new recruits and Covington, along with several of his bachelor friends, answered the call.  In exchange for $250.00, the men agreed to dedicate 12-14 months to pack goods and trap beaver. The men purchased from the company, at what Covington called “very low” prices, two blankets, a capote, two heavy red flannel shirts, and as much extra clothing as each thought proper to lay in. Most also purchased two pounds of tobacco and a pound of salt.  On or around October 1, 1827, Jackson and Sublette took charge of the pack train and, with 45 men – Covington included – and 80 mules heavily loaded with good and groceries, they headed to the mountains with goods and supplies valued at $20,000.00.

packtrain2It was a brutally cold winter that year and by the time they reached the mountains the mules were starving and freezing.  Every night one or more mule died until every man was on foot. There was no place to cache goods, so the men were forced to carry the merchandise. Just before Christmas, in the Black Hills near where Fort Laramie is now located, they stopped in a cottonwood grove and made camp.  On Christmas morning Sublette distributed pure brandy which was well received by the company after such hard traveling.

When March arrived and the snow began to disappear, the party found a suitable spot on a bluff along the Platte to cache the supplies. After that, the men started trapping beaver along the many streams that flowed from the foothills.

beaver_slowCovington reports that during this time, the principal food of these trappers was beaver meat. This contradicts long-held beliefs of many historians who claim the mountain men seldom ate the meat of the beaver they trapped.

fabric boltDuring the spring, blowing snow and rain caused considerable damage to one of the caches. Several bales of calico, red and blue cloths, tobacco, sugar, coffee and raisins became wet and damaged. Entire bolts of cloth had to be opened and spread out to dry.

muleBlackfoot Indians killed Joseph Coté at Birch Creek, which later became known as Cote’s defile.  Dale Morgan stated that Cote’s death was “almost the only clue that Jackson and Sublette’s were present in the mountains in the spring of 1828.” The Indian that killed Cote’ slipped in among the mules, cutting several loose.  Coté was on guard duty and  although he crawled close to the Indian, with gun cocked, the Indian fired first. Cote’ was the only man of Sublette’s company lost that year.

Bodmer_--_Blackfoot_Indian,_1840-1843

Approximately two or three hundred Blackfoot warriors attacked Robert Campbell’s party as it was just a few miles from the rendezvous site. Things might have gone poorly for Campbell’s group if it had not been so close to rendezvous. 60-70 trappers and several hundred friendly Indians quickly arrived from rendezvous to reinforce Campbell’s group. skirmish

Depending on who is telling the story, the Blackfoot Indians are believed to have retired from the field before the reinforcements arrived. Lewis Bolduc was killed during this skirmish. Corroborated by Campbell as well as Daniel Pott and Jim Beckworth, Covington’s articles relate that a war party left, then returned after a week or so, with several enemy scalps. A scalp dance was held upon the party’s return and Covington provides many details of this celebration in his writing.

Covington provides the most detailed description known of the location of the 1828 rendezvous site. He wrote:

meadowville01We camped at the south end of the lake. It had a most beautiful shore, sloping gradually to the water’s edge, sandy and gravelly, with a considerable quantity of cottonwood trees growing without any underbrush. South of the lake was a beautiful a valley as eyes ever beheld, about two or three miles each way, all covered with the most luxuriant grass, which furnished excellent pasturage for our animals. About half a mile from the lake, a large spring came up out of the prairie, which made a stream about two feet deep and fifteen or twenty feet wide, with plenty of the finest quality of fish. This was on the east, and on the west, not more than half a mile, came out another spring of nearly the same description, both boiling up on the prairie, and dry ground all round. Both of these streams ran down a gradual slope into the lake.”

The valley Covington mentions is most likely modern day Meadowville Valley. The spring to the east could be Falula Spring and the spring on the west is probably what is now known as Big Spring.

cabinCovington stated that a small cabin was built up about eight feet high with poles laid across, then covered by cottonwood limbs with the leaves still on, forming a good shaded covering. They split poles for shelving for the dry goods and two or three poles formed a counter on which more goods were laid. The only other mention of a log building at a rendezvous comes from the 1838 event.

campRendezvous this year would last through the early part of July. Covington describes a lively time at rendezvous.  “Plenty of fine horses; plenty of fine brandy and whiskey at $2.00 a pint or tin cup full; plenty of goods and groceries of almost every description. Horse racing and shooting was carried on to a considerable degree, while card playing and drinking was not neglected.” Like so many rendezvous yet to come, the men let their hair down and celebrated another successful year in the Rocky Mountains.

hughglassMany of the most famous of mountaineers were present. Hugh Glass retold the famous story of his encounter with a grizzly and even pulled off his shirt to show the scars on his back and body as proof. Covington mentions becoming acquainted with Jim Bridger, Ezekiel Abels, Jim Beckwourth and Black Harris. Harris is believed to have gone west with Sublette in 1827. His whereabouts were unknown up until 1829, but it is now apparent that Harris was at Bear Lake in the summer of 1828.

joshuapilcherSupplied by John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company and to add a little competition, Joshua Pilcher’s fur company was also present at the 1828 rendezvous.  Most of their supplies, which had been cached, were destroyed by water seepage. They were, however, successful in trading for 17 packs of beaver with the meager supplies that they were able to salvage. Many historians link Johnson Gardner to Pilcher, claiming Gardner acted as Pilcher’s clerk, but he did not hire on with Pilcher until after the end of the rendezvous. Covington’s dialogue indicated Gardner was a free trapper, who had the best rifle in the company short of Captain Sublette.  Gardner must have accompanied the furs east, then hired on with Sublette’s supply train.

packtrainThe partners of Smith, Jackson and Sublette were responsible for the task of returning furs themselves to St. Louis.  The company made their departure from rendezvous for St. Louis around the fifteenth of August, with 45 to 50 men and about 80 or 90 mules heavily laden with fur valued at nearly $36,000.00, consisting of 7710 pounds of Beaver pelts, 59 otter skins, 73 muskrat skins and 27 pounds of castoreum.  Antoine_JanisThe “big Bushaway” (probably Sublette) lead the way and the “little Bushaway” (most likely Antoine Janis) brought up the rear. Some of Pilcher’s men, also carrying their proceeds from trading at the rendezvous, accompanied Sublette back to St. Louis.  Although Sublette and Pilcher were competitors and rivals, it was not unusual for them to travel together, for the greater safety provided by their numbers.scouting

Camp fare was pretty rough. There was no bread, but Sublette brought along two or three mules loaded with side bacon and five or six fat steers to butcher.  That meat was gone well before the caravan got to buffalo country.

buffalo-herdOn the Platte River Plains the company was surprised to spot several hundred Indians riding toward them at full speed. The men halted, formed a circle, unpacked the goods and piled them up for breast works.  The mules were then picketed within the perimeter and the men hunkered down behind the packs, rifles aimed and ready, but the Indians proved to be Pawnee merely looking for buffalo.  A few tobacco plugs earned the company passage.

mtn-men-sleeping2a1Jackson and Sublette arrived in St Louis on October 13, 1828, netting a surplus of $16,000.00.  Upon their arrival, the men of the party all stood in front of Ashley’s fine home and unpacked the mules. General Ashley, his wife, and his sister-in-law hosted the company for a breakfast of coffee, tea, white biscuits, and good butter. Nearly all of the men were still attired in suits of leather, hunting shirts, and blanket coats – just as they came off the plains. Says Covington, they had not washed with soap for months!

50With breakfast over, Ashley gave each man $50 to go to town and purchase new clothes. Covington went to the barbershop for a shave and a haircut, got himself a new suit, then went to a hotel and called for a tub of hot water with PLENTY of soap. He returned to Ashley and settled accounts, receiving $210. He was only docked $40 for clothing and expenses for his year in the mountains.

“So you see I did not gamble nor spend much on alcohol, as some others did.”
~Phillip Covington

Great News!

We have some very exciting news to share with you!

Bear Lake Rendezvous is pleased to announce that our event in August of 2015 has been moved up a week! BLR066

The new dates this year are:
August 17-25,
with the main event
occurring on
Friday, Saturday and Sunday, August 21-23!

 

This is good news in so many ways, the most significant being that our event now falls on a weekend that is void of any other rendezvous in the area. Traders and die-hard rendezvous attendees will no longer feel torn about which events to attend because conflicts in scheduling have been removed!  This adjustment also provides for less potential of having a run-in with mother nature and the grumbling skies that Fall sometimes brings to the area. We just couldn’t be happier!

medallionSO,
RE-MARK YOUR CALENDARS!
HELP SPREAD THE WORD!
BEAR LAKE RENDEZVOUS IS THE
21ST THROUGH THE 23RD!

(Hey!  That rhymes!)

18Those already pre-registered traders, who were contacted about the possibility of this change, do not need to resubmit registration.  We will update our forms and flyers, and contact all other websites that may be advertising the now incorrect dates.  BLR064

Traders who haven’t yet, and wish to pre-register, please feel free to use the old forms while we run through the process of updating everything.

Thanks!
See you in August!

The First Laketown Area Fur Traders Rendezvous

rendezvousdepiction1William Ashley hired Hiram Scott and 46-60 men to take the supply caravan to the 1827 rendezvous. The caravan left St. Louis on April 12, 1827.rendezvousdepiction2

The pack train, with supplies, was valued at $22,447. The 1827 Sweet (Bear) Lake Rendezvous was the first where rum appeared on the list of trade goods.

The men accompanying this pack train were paid $110 for one year of service. Hiram Scott become ill, and he was abandoned. His body was found three years later near Scott’s Bluff, Nebraska.

canon copy-1240A four-pounder cannon, the first wheeled vehicle ever taken into the mountains, was part of this caravan. The route traversed the Platte River, then along the North Platte River and finally across South Pass – the eastern part of the Oregon Trail.  Jed Smith Image 6 - MapIt is thought the group arrived in late June.  They were definitely on site by July 3rd, greeted by Mountain Men and Native Americans already gathering in anticipation of the rendezvous at the south end of Sweet (Bear) Lake.  At the time, this rendezvous was within the territory of Mexico.

800px-Alfred_Jacob_Miller_-_The_Greeting_-_Walters_371940133

Just prior to, or about the time of the arrival of the pack train, Blackfoot warriors attacked those gathering for the rendezvous. According to Daniel Potts, this event was more of a skirmish involving about 20 Blackfoot warriors. However, James Beckwourth, known as the “Immaculate Liar,” accounted it as a six hour, all-out battle involving more than 300 trappers, plus their Indian allies, where more than 173 Blackfoot scalps were taken.beaverpelt

At the rendezvous, 7400 beaver pelts were sold at $3 per pound.  Although a relatively new fur company, Smith, Jackson and Sublette appeared to have had a successful year, primarily due to mark-up of goods and supplies. 130 packs of fur, averaging 100 pounds per pack, were taken on the return trip.beaver2

There was a bit of grumbling among the trappers about the “exorbitant “ prices of goods. Powder was $2.50 a pound, lead $1.50, coffee, sugar, and tobacco $2.00 each, three point blankets $15.00, cotton and calico $2.50 a yard, with blue and scarlet cloth approaching $10.00 a yard.Trading_at_Pierres_Hole

The 1827 rendezvous broke camp on or about around July 13th.  When the trading concluded, all parties dispersed upon the return of Smith from a perilous journey to California.


Flash forward to the late 1860’s:

Meadowville, Round Valley, and Laketown were being established as “Mormon” communities in spite of disagreements with Native Americans over their “hunting grounds.”  It seems that the first white settlers in the valley had made a treaty with the Native Americans, which gave the north end of the Bear Lake Valley to the white people and the south end to the Native Americans.

GreenRiver_Rendezvous, William Henry JacksonLarge bands of Native Americans often gathered in the vicinity of Laketown. In 1870, a large community estimated at 3,000, camped on the south shore of Bear Lake. This caused the Mormon settlers a great deal of concern.  After a meeting of the settlers and chiefs, among them Chief Washakie, an agreement was forged and the Native Americans moved to Wind River, Wyoming.

And So It Begins!

medallionBear Lake Rendezvous will be present to kick off the Utah Rendezvous season on Easter Weekend at Fort Buenaventura Park, located at 2450 A Ave, in Ogden UT.

fb1THE DATES:
April 4-5, 2015.
Saturday events begin at 8:00 a.m. and conclude at  6:00 p.m. Sunday events begin at 10:00 a.m. and conclude at 1:00 p.m. The cost for admission to the Fort B Rendezvous is $2.00 per person.

For more information about this rendezvous,
call (801) 399-8491 or 399-8099

fb4

Fuzzy will be offering his famous pulled pork sandwiches, taters and shrub.  fb2

 

 

 

Kash will be present to hand out BLR flyers and answer your questions. We will have registration forms for you to complete at the Easter Rendezvous. Be sure to ask about group discounts for 2 or more traders who plan to attend the Bear Lake Rendezvous in August 2015!

fb3

Traders who submit paid registrations on Easter Weekend will receive 1 complimentary meal, valued up to $10.00.

 

 

 

Here is a link to the Bear Lake Rendezvous registration form:

http://www.bearlakerendezvous.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/BLR-2015-Registration.pdf

In order to move forward, we need traders and campers to confirm their participation through pre-registration.

See you on Easter Weekend!

The Beginning of an Exciting Era!

crop2From 1825 through 1840, the mountain men looked forward, in great anticipation, to the up-and-coming mountain rendezvous held each year.BLR010

It was the social and business event of the year for the fur trappers and traders. Instead of having a permanent trading post, it was Jedediah Smith who convinced William Ashley to bring a caravan of supplies from St. Louis and meet the trappers at Henry’s Fork (aka Randavous Creek – their spelling) on the Green River in July of 1825 for the very first rendezvous.

BLR096At each mountain rendezvous camp, the location for the next years mountain rendezvous camp was announced. After the business of trading the beaver pelts for the essentials of life in the mountains, the mountain men got down to the serious business of gambling, telling tall tales, target shooting and general socializing.  There was no booze at the first rendezvous but they made sure to correct that the next year!

cropMost of the men left the mountain rendezvous camp with little money, for what good was money in the isolated world that they lived in? More important were their horse, rifle, string of traps and a fresh supply of tobacco.

Leaving, they would go to find new beaver streams, hole up in the winter in their isolated world, and HOPE TO LIVE to return to the next mountain rendezvous camp.Rendezvous Sites Map

Year and Location of known mountain rendezvous camps:

  • 1825 Henry’s Fork of the Green River, Wyoming (Randavous Creek – their spelling)
  • 1826 Cache Valley, near present Cove, Utah (Willow Valley)
  • 1827 Bear Lake, Utah (Sweet Lake)
  • 1828 Bear Lake, Utah (Sweet Lake)
  • 1829 Upper Popo Agie, near Lander, Wyoming
  • 1830 Wind River headwaters near Riverton, Wyoming.
  • 1831 Cache Valley, near present Cove, Utah (Willow Valley)
  • 1832 Pierre’s Hole, Idaho
  • 1833 Green River near Horse Creek, Wyoming
  • 1834 Ham’s Fork, Wyoming
  • 1835 Green River near Horse Creek, Wyoming
  • 1836 Green River near Horse Creek, Wyoming
  • 1837 Green River near Horse Creek, Wyoming
  • 1838 Wind River at the mouth of Popo Agie, Wyoming
  • 1839 Green River near Horse Creek, Wyoming
  • 1840 Green River near Horse Creek, Wyoming

This year’s Bear Lake Rendezvous is scheduled for August 21-23. Trader set-up officially begin on Wednesday, August 19th. The public is welcome, from Wednesday onward, to witness the gathering as it unfolds! We strongly encourage that early guests to the Rendezvous also come back to visit again on the weekend when the Rendezvous is in full swing.

Traders who may need to come in early should contact Kash Johnson to make the necessary arrangements.  The Rendezvous ends at sunset on Sunday, August 30th, but folks are welcome to wait to break camp until Monday afternoon. 

Email:  kash@bearlakerendezvous.com
Telephone: 801-452-1518
Mail:  Bear Lake Rendezevous, P.O. Box 44, Woodruff, UT   84086

beadwork

Native American Dress

crow indiansNative American clothing has a long, diverse history. Each tribe used similar techniques of manufacture, but that is where the similarities stopped. Tribes dressed distinctively as a claim of their heritage. Great pride was taken in each design. Initially, tribal attire was quite different from region to region.

IndiananimalrelationhipNative American people believe that humans and animals are related and should treat each other with respect and kindness. Animals give themselves to humans for food and clothing.  The hunter thanks them for their sacrifice by using as much of the animal as possible. It is said that to wear an animal skin inside out or in any different way than the animal would “is disrespectful to the animal.”

breechclothleggings

Common items of clothing for men, among the tribes, were breechcloths and leggings. Often the breechcloth is all men would wear. As it got colder, the men would wear leather leggings, for extra warmth, that were attached to their breechcloths. Some tribes wore kilts. Some wore trousers made of furs. The Sioux wore war shirts. In some Tribes, women wore skirts and would also go without a shirt. The Cheyenne preferred a one-piece buckskin dress.

bark clothBark was stripped, dried, and shredded to make fibers which were then used to weave soft, comfortable cloth. The Pomo tribe wore skirts made from redwood bark. The Cherokee used mulberry bark. The Paiute and Washoe shredded the plentiful sagebrush bark. Tribes of the rainy Northwest Coast, such as the Tlingit and the Suquamish, used the bark of the cedar tree.

weaving loomMany tribes used handmade methods of weaving, but natives of the American Southwest were the first group to develop a loom for weaving cloth. In 1200, well before the arrival of the first Europeans, Indians in the Southwest grew cotton and wove it into cloth. They also wove yucca, wool, feathers, and even human hair. Breechclouts, leggings, and skirts were often made of woven fibers.

trousers

Tribes living in colder regions needed thicker clothing, so they wore trousers, jackets, and hooded anoraks. Women also wore leggings under their skirt or tunic. The Iroquois and Pequot chose to accessorize their clothes with fur, claws and shells. Southeast tribes like the Cherokee, Creek, Seminole and the Shawnee of the Plains used feathers and teeth.elktoothdress

In Native cultures, women often wore the same dress for years, so the garment was designed to tell the woman’s story.  Symbols referred to her tribe, marital status, and the hunting prowess of her husband or father.   A dress bedazzled with dozens of elk eyeteeth spoke of the skilled hunters in her family .tanning hides

It takes about 40 hours of hard, physical work to prepare a hide properly.  At first, a single animal hide was folded in half. The two edges were then sewn to create a straight tube dress, which made movement difficult, twohidedressso women in nomadic tribes began making two-hide dresses. Garments were cut to take advantage of the natural shape of the hides.  The tail of the animal was placed at the top of dress, and was a highly desirable neck embellishment.  Later in the nineteenth century it became fashionable to remove the tail from the hide and replace it with intricate beadwork . Two-hide dresses evolved into three-hide dresses, with the third hide folded like a short cape over the two-hide garment.

beadwork2

Dresses were warm and weather appropriate.  They were often additionally adorned with porcupine quills, bits of tin, carved bone, animal sinew, coins, animal teeth, fossilized shells, and the brightly colored glass beads that traders brought from the glass factories in Europe. Thousands of hours would go into the embellishment of Native American wear, often with the entire yoke covered in beads.

In the 1800s, the Cherokee Indians were the first to begin to adopt the culture that the white man brought to them. They began to dress more European, and even adopted many of their farming and building methods.

Mills in England wove wool specifically for trading with Native Americans and by the mid-nineteenth century, dresses made of this “Indian cloth” were common.  The wool was often dyed a vivid scarlet or dark blue, with the un-dyed selvage incorporated in the design to fall at the edge of the garment.  It was also in the 1800s that rows of ribbon, shells or beads were added as another design element.

mukluk

All the tribes had similar styles of footwear, from moccasins to mukluk, although they too were often distinguished by tribe, via cut, beadwork and painted designs.  Native Americans living in the East wore soft-soled moccasins decorated in zoomorphic or flower designs. The designs covered everything except the sides of the moccasins.  The western plains Indians wore hard soled moccasins made from two pieces of leather.  Designs on these moccasins covered the entire top of the moccasin but left the cuffs free of marking.

Once colonization began, tribes intermingled more, and their clothes became more and more alike.   To understand fully the distinctions of each tribe, the years before colonization must be studied.  As Native Americans had continued contact with Europeans and white settlers, they eagerly incorporated new items, such as the glass beads and silver ornaments previously mentioned, into their wardrobes.  As they moved to the reservations, their new circumstances forced them to buy clothing from whites, which drastically changed the way Native Americans dressed.

Kesha-6

To the Native American, imitation is not the highest form of flattery.  Children dressing up as an Indian at Halloween, the Hippies of the sixties wearing fringe, and feathers in their hair, to Woodstock, and the current trend of pop stars to wear a headdress during a grammy performance, is highly offensive and is believed, by the Native American population, to disregard Indian spirituality.