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Moccasins -Bata Shoe Museum

September 8, 2009

I went to the Bata Shoe Museum during my last visit to Toronto. One exhibit that I was surprised to be so taken with was the Native North American Footwear exhibition. The craftsmanship that went into each pair is pretty amazing, and it’s just what was worn everyday. I had no idea that the hides would not only be tanned, but also smoked.


One-Piece Moccasins
This pair of Huron moccasins was made and worn in the Great Lakes region around 1780 to 1790.

One-Piece Construction
These moccasins have the classic straight back and centre seams – a pattern of quillwork covers the centre seam. The one piece of skin used to form the shoe extends to form a collar.

Both the central seam and collar edge have fine porcupine quillwork in an orange, white, and black cross pattern. Dyed moosehair hangs from tin cones around the rim of the collar.

Skin Treatment
The skin has been tanned and smoked. Traces of red pigment suggest that the hide was once coloured.


Two-Piece Moccasins
Two-piece moccasins have an apron inserted at the top of the foot.

Quill work was woven separately on a loom and then applied to each apron and suspended from the collars.
Geometric patterns form triangles, stars, chevrons, and thunderbirds.
Three bands of bird quill piping decorate the joint between the apron and bottom pieces.

Skin Treatment
Smoked moose hide.



European Materials and Design for Moccasins

Moccasin-makers adopted European designs and materials for decoration. In the second half of the 19th century, fur traders brought embroidery thread, needles, and scissors to the north. Mission schools run by Ursuline Sisters, Grey Nuns and Anglicans played an important role in introducing European needlework techniques and motifs to the Athapaskans.





4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 9, 2009 1:03 am

    The Bata Shoe Museum is one of my favorite stops in Toronto. Last time I was there, I fell in love with a pair of knee-high eiderdown lined mukluks. Completely amazing.

  2. September 9, 2009 2:35 am

    this is so interesting! i never thought of what went into making a native american moccasin.

  3. September 9, 2009 7:15 pm

    To learn more about the Bata Shoe Museum, we recommend this video:

  4. September 12, 2009 3:34 pm

    The embroidery on the second pair is incredible. If you’re ever in Montreal, you should stop at the Redpath museum at McGill–they have a small collection of Chinese shoes that were used by women with bound feet; tiny, tiny little works of art.

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