Before the arrival of great numbers of Europeans in the seventeenth century, Native Americans also used the animals and plants they found around them to make food, shelter, and clothing. One of the most plentiful resources in many areas was the bark of trees, which was stripped, dried, and shredded to make fibers. These fibers were used to weave soft, comfortable clothing. Typical shredded bark
A young girl dressed in a cedar bark costume. Native Americans often used bark to weave skirts, aprons, capes, and hats.
Reproduced by permission of the Smithsonian Institution.
clothing included skirts, aprons, shirts, belts, hats, capes, and even raincoats.
Many tribes made bark clothing, using the trees that grew close by. In the southeastern United States, the Cherokee used mulberry bark to make soft shirts. The Pomo living along the West Coast used shredded redwood bark to make wraparound skirts, while the Paiute and Washoe of the deserts further east shredded the plentiful bark of the sagebrush. Tribes of the rainy Northwest coast of North America, such as the Tlingit and the Suquamish, wove rain-hats and raincoats from the bark of the cedar tree.
Most clothing was made by Indian women, who also prepared the fibers for weaving. Bark was stripped from small trees and then dried in the sun before being pounded into a flexible mass and shredded into thin, strong fibers. These fibers were woven into fabric and made into clothing that was both comfortable and protective. Native Americans loved to bring beauty into their lives by decorating even everyday items, so sometimes bark clothing was decorated with fringe, painted pictures, porcupine quills, or animal teeth and claws. Bark clothing was difficult to clean, but bark was an abundant resource, so most bark clothing was simply discarded when it became too dirty to wear.
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