Artifacts

Green Bead Detail Moccasins
ITEM: NMEMG 18_1933
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Native American Moccasins were traditionally used as footwear to protect hunters and agricultural workers’ feet from the severe winter conditions throughout North America, so that they could contue to provide for their tribe.

The decoration applied to moccasins helps to understand their specific purpose. Moccasins that were adorned with beads all over were a spiritual rather than a practical object. This is because the entire moccasin, including the sole, has been decorated in beads. This decoration would not make them a particularly useful piece of equipment for hunting, as tough animals skins and hides were typically better materials at protecting a hunters feet and reducing the noise he made when moving about. Hunting moccasins would also keep the soles free from decoration, as this part of the shoe would wear out and need replacing quicker. In general, any decoration would have been designed to for the long-term use of the moccasin.

Since the sole has been decorated too, these moccasins were probably made in preparation for the afterlife, a common custom among Plains Indians. Due to this high spiritual significance, these moccasins would have been more valuable than a standard set of hunting moccasins. If this is the case, Brenchley would have had to have bargained harder with the tribe with which he obtained them from to acqurie them. It is more likely that due to the purpose and higher value of these moccasins, Brenchley would have been more inclined to obtain them through deception or without concent from the tribe; like grave robbing. Due to the moccasin’s purpose and design, these items would have raied the status of his ‘cabinet of curiousity’ more than any other objects he was offered in trade.

Due to the unknown provenance of the moccasins is difficult to know how Brenchley gained them for his collection. However, if any proof can be found that Brenchley did acquire this item through devious means, they, under NAGPRA, must and should be returned to the tribe or to the burial ground from which they came.