Northwest Indians


Coastal tribes wore very little clothing, except in the coldest weather. They made extensive use of cedar bark and very little use of animal skins. The garments they wore were designed more for shedding water than for providing warmth. They went barefoot even in winter. The women wore skirts of shredded cedar bark, to which they added a buckskin slip on cold days. The upper garment worn on cold or rainy days was also of cedar bark put together with rows of twining spaced 1 to 4 inches apart. The finer the garment the closer the rows were spaced.

Coastal Indians were especially fond of necklaces. The most highly prized were made of dentalium shells, slender white tusk-shaped shells gathered near the shores of Vancouver Island. Necklaces of beaver teeth, bear claws, clam shells, and bits of abalone shell indicated wealth. Only the very wealthy wore nose and lip ornaments.



This Cayuse woman is dressed in a typical Plateau beaded dress with a basketry hat. Her dress was made from two deerskins to which a fringe was added. The hat, and the basketry bag in her left hand bear geometric designs. The bag in her right hand has a floral pattern indicating European influence.

The women of the inland tribes were superior in their dressmaking skills. Because of the severity of the winters, they had to wear warm clothing. Their tanned buckskin shirts, skirts, dresses, leggings and moccasins were not only durable and warm, but beautiful as well. The men's leggings extended from the hip to the ankle and were supported by a belt. The women's leggings extended from the knee to the ankle and were supported by garters. The leggings were trimmed with fringes and ornaments. Over their buckskin clothing both the men and the women wore robes and blankets woven of fur or feathers. During periods of snow they wore snowshoes with upturned toes.

Inland tribes decorated their clothing with the teeth and claws of wild animals, porcupine quills, scalps of foes killed in battle, feathers, fur, bone tubes from small animals, and other natural resources. These decorations were put on the fringe at the bottoms of dresses, shirts and skirts and at the ends of sleeves. They were also used for necklaces, ear and nose ornaments and belts.

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