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A very beautiful pair of historic Northern Plains Shoshone Indian beaded deer hide leather high-top moccasins, c. 1920’s-40’s

This is one mighty fancy and attractive pair of shoes indeed, proving conclusively that high fashion is not exclusively

a product of the great couture houses. In our view, for style, beauty and elegance, these shoes easily equal or surpass the finest high-fashion couturier creations from the great European ateliers of Gucci, Chanel, Prada, Hermes and Louboutin and the esteemed American fashion houses of Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan and Calvin Klein. None of these renowned names has a single step on these timeless, historic kicks for pure style, coolness and overall glamour!

And it's all the more so when you consider for a few moments the extremely trying circumstances under which this fashionable footwear’s beauty was achieved. The “Designer” was your wife or mother or sister or daughter or grandmother. She did not attend The Fashion Institute; her “studio” was the floor or table of your family tipi, lodge

or cabin. There was probably no indoor plumbing, no electricity, no running water, no heat, no cafe or grocery store just down the street. Probably no street. Need a deer skin? Go hunt for it, track it, kill it, butcher it and tan its leather hide yourself. The beads and brass tacks all had to be traded for or salvaged from other garments.

When the moccasins were all finished there was no runway to debut them on, no adoring fashion press to review them, just an appreciative someone to wear and enjoy them. Where did the inspiration come from to make things of such unique beauty under such difficult circumstances? Perhaps the words of the great Kiowa Plains Indian writer and poet,

N. Scott Momaday, who was a young boy on the American plains around the same time that these moccasins were made can offer us some kind of answer:

“When I was a boy, I first became aware of the beautiful world in which I lived. It was a world of rich colors—red canyons and blue mesas, green fields and yellow ochre sands, silver clouds, and mountains that changed from black to charcoal to purple and iron.”

-Quotation source and © N. Scott Momaday, “Earth Keeper”, Harper Collin Books, 2020

These handsome moccasins are very finely and most carefully and precisely crafted of beautifully cotton sewn brain-tanned smoked deer hide leather and they are gorgeously and sumptuously decorated with a variety of original hand-applied beadwork designs and brass tack buttons. The continuous long row of brass tack buttons up the outsides of the moccasins mimics the design and function of women’s European and American Victorian era leather button-up shoes as seen in the photo above. These brass tacks were most likely recycled from another older garment or decorated tomahawk, gunstock or other implement. There are also very beautifully detailed leather ties and fringes

in various places on the moccasins.

There are four separate matching beadwork design panels on each of the moccasins, one on the toe, another on the back of the heel, one up the outside edges and one around the very tops in various colors and arrangements of blue, white, green, red and orange beads. There are twelve functional brass tack buttons up the outside of each moccasin. The moccasins measure 11" in height, 9 1/2" in length from the back of the heel to the tip of they toe and they are 3 1/2" in width at their widest points. They are in excellent original condition with no damages, and particularly so for their 80-100 years of age. There is some extremely slight indication of wear on the bottoms but very little and the marvelous and delicate beadwork is all completely intact.

We carefully checked and confirmed both the tribal affiliation and the age of these moccasins with an extremely knowledgable and experienced professional colleague of ours who is himself partially of Plains Indian ancestry.

His informed opinion is that due to the specifics of the beadwork designs and the particular means and techniques

of manufacture of the moccasins that they are Northern Plains Shoshone Indian in origin most likely from Idaho

and that they probably date from the 1920’s to the 1940’s.

This pair of beautiful, superbly hand-crafted Native American shoes from a bygone age by an unknown

but clearly very skilled Native artisan would make a lovely and historic addition to any collection of Native

American art, material culture and indigenous American fashion.

Price $1,450


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Two Shoshone-Bannock Indian men in Native beaded regalia, c. 1915-1920.

Photo source and © True West Magazine

"Heebe-tee-tse", Shoshone Indian man, c. 1899.

Photo source and © Library of Congress, Washington D.C.

A pair of  lady's Victorian style button-up shoes, c. 1910.

Photo source and © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York