Although many tribes used handmade methods of weaving, natives of the American Southwest were the first group to develop a loom, or weaving device, for weaving cloth. In 1200 C.E., well before the arrival of the first Europeans, Indians in the Southwest grew cotton and wove it into cloth. They also wove yucca, wool, feathers, and even human hair into cloth. Their breechclouts, leggings, and skirts were often made of woven fibers.
As Native Americans had continued contact with Europeans and white settlers, their ability to continue making clothing according to their traditional ways was destroyed. Native Americans had eagerly incorporated new items, such as glass beads and silver ornaments, into their wardrobes when they first started trading with whites. But continued contact with whites made it impossible for Native Americans to maintain their traditional ways of clothing themselves. Pushed off their homelands and onto reservations, government land set aside for them to live, in the late 1800s, Native
Americans lost the ability to hunt for or gather the necessary materials for their clothes. Their new circumstances forced them to buy clothing from whites, which drastically changed the way Native Americans dressed.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Anawalt, Patricia R., and H. B. Nicholson. Indian Clothing Before Cortes. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990.
Hofsinde, Robert. Indian Costumes. New York: William Morrow, 1968.
Martin, Calvin. Keepers of the Game: Indian-Animal Relationships and the Fur Trade. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1978.
Paterek, Josephine. Encyclopedia of American Indian Costume. Denver, CO: ABC-CLIO, 1994.
Was this article helpful?