Indian Moccasin Art

Published on September 4, 2014 by Amy

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Indian Moccasin Art
Indian Moccasin Art

Indian moccasins were the traditional footwear for multiple Indian tribes. Typically constructed from animal hides, these slipper-style shoes were decorated through a variety of means. Whether a simple slide on shoe, or elaborate knee high moccasins complete with fringe and ball tipped lacing strings, the artwork on the moccasins showcased the craftsmanship of the maker and the wearer.

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Moccasins are traditionally made by cutting leather into individual patterns and stitching them together. Long before thread was widely available, sinew, a strong tissue typically connecting muscles together, was used to fasten the pieces together. The leather forms a soft, slipper-like shoe worn by many Indian tribes, although many tribes have their own word for the moccasin. Various tribes cut and assembled their moccasins differently, making the very construction part of the artwork and craftsmanship of the leather moccasins.

Bead Work

Indian moccasins are often decorated with bead work. Many of these beads are glass beads in colors that were indicative to the area inhabited by that Indian tribe. Today, many of the beads are plastic beads. The less expensive plastic beads are easily found at craft stores and online, making them a budget-friendly choice for those who want to add bead work art to their moccasins.


Porcupine quills were often used in the artwork on moccasins. The quills require cleaning prior to use and were dyed various colors with plants and foliage. Quills are usually soaked in water to soften them and make them more pliable. The quills are then slid beneath guide stitches and sewn in place. A variety of stitches are used to secure quills to moccasins, making the stitching and the quills equally important in this moccasin art form.


Fur from animals is often used as a part of the artwork found on moccasins, particularly in modern styles of Mukluks. Sheepskin is a favorite fur used in moccasins, and can be a cuff around the top or in decorative sections around the center of knee-high moccasins. This warm and water-shedding fur is also a favorite for the inside of heavy moccasins for both its warmth and its comfort.

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Based on the collective work of, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
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