Moccasins, Nez Perce.

Summary: 
Made by the Nez Perce circa 1836. Acquired by Henry Spalding and sent to Dudley Allen. Purchased by the Nez Perce Tribe from the Ohio Historical Society in 1996.
Description: 

Two piece puckered toe with added ankle cuff sole, thin moose or caribou hide. Checker/weaved quills

H. 11, W 11.5, L 28 CM

Cultural Narrative: 

Josiah Pinkham describing the Nez Perce custom of giving away moccasins:

"I see the potential. And it’s an inspiration to me to look at those things and think God, I need to do more with my time. And so that’s why I’m constantly trying to keep my boys in material culture like that. And fortunately I’ve been blessed with beautiful boys that are interested in making these types of things. They ask about it. They see the benefit of it. Like with my son, his first pair of moccasins, I told him about our tradition of when we make our first pair of moccasins, or our first piece of beadwork, one of the things that I was taught was that you give that away to somebody. And you know, it’s his choice who he wants to give it to. But he’s not supposed to hang onto those and parade them around like a trophy, you know, look, my very first pair of moccasins. What he’s expected to do is to make them, put a lot of work into them making them the best pair of moccasins that he can, and then give them away to somebody that is going to run holes in them. Because then he’s not attached to it. What he’s attached to is I learned how to make moccasins. I can make another pair and I can contribute."

Traditional Knowledge: 

Nakia Williamson-Cloud on the connection between the items in the Spalding-Allen Collection, the elders, and the land:

"We have to maintain connections to these things that tie us back to this land. And these things truly do that. And not only to the land, but to our experiences and our history that reinforces our identity. And so I think that I try to retain not only these items that were handed down from generation to generation and up unto myself, but also try to have understanding about how these things are made, how they’re put together and what that means to us as Nez Perce people. I try to have that kind of understanding as well. Not simply that I have the item and if I were to lose the item, then that’s it. I’m trying to retain the knowledge about a lot of these things as well. So again, that’s important.

I want my son and I want my nieces and nephews and someday grandchildren to understand what these mean to us. And that they have a deep meaning to us because of what they represent. And to respect them and not to trivialize them in any way. 

As we’re told in our way of life, we’re taking care of our life as Indian people. And that’s how we do it is in a lot of these ways that connect us back to the land. That’s the way we take care of ourselves. And it’s a continual maintenance that we have to do. And it’s the work we have to put forth and the effort we have to put forth. And never forget it. And always hold onto it. And we have to keep that knowledge that ties us to this land. And that’s so important. Without that, like I said, you know, everything does not really matter as much.

Because these are, all the things that we have within our culture are just basically devices and ways in which we connect ourselves to our elders and to our land. And they’re reminders, constant reminders to us of our true value system and identity as Nez Perce people. And so when you surround yourself with these things and it continues to reinforces and reminds you on a day to day basis, you know, who you are and what you represent. And that’s really important. So that’s what a lot of these do for us is they remind us of the old people.

So they used to say this about how to be. Or they would say this of how to hunt. Or they would say this was the proper time to dig roots. It just allows you a way into, to tap in and to remember that knowledge. 
And it’s knowledge that can never really truly be written down and encapsulated in a book or in any written form. And that’s what our old people talked about. It’s something you have to live and it has to be inside your heart. Because you can write it down, and write things down. And that’s good in a way. But unless you live it and believe it and do it, and it’s a part of you, when you write something down, it automatically limits it. Because it’s only limited to what’s on the written page. And there’s so much more to a lot of these things that our people understood. And so that’s a part of it. These are part of the ways in which we access that knowledge and access that type of understanding. And they’re reminders to us about the value system of our elders and everything else that are important to maintaining our identity."