The evolution of Lakota social and political structure from pre-contact through the present with maps of the Lakota Nation.
Traditional Lakota tales of the creation of the universe, the earth and the emergence of life and mankind within it.
Lakota traditional spiritual beliefs, rites and ceremonies, past and present
Traditional Lakota folk tales in English and Lakota.
A guide to the Lakota alphabet and pronunciation with streaming audio. An introduction to Lakota rules of grammar, verb lists and dictionaries (English & Deutsch).
Song structure of Plains music, historical diffusion of songs, dances and regalia on the Plains. Lakota songs to listen to and download.
Current events, national news clippings.
The full complete text of Treaties and U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
Šung'manitu-tanka, the Great Plains or Buffalo Wolf - The nation of wolves and their unique relationship with the Lakota.
Links to Native American sites on the World Wide Web.
Lakota Music and Dance
Plains Hard-Sole Moccasins
The Indians of the Plains wear this hard-sole moccasin which was developed as protection from the hard, and
sometimes rocky, ground of the prairie that is their home. Normally constructed of soft tanned elk or buckskin uppers and supple,
but tough rawhide soles, they represent one of the most highly refined forms of Native American footwear ever developed. This
popular style of moccasin is both comfortable and durable for dancing, or everyday wear.
Many styles of construction, decoration, and other more subtle variations, such as tongue style, exist from tribe
to tribe. Many times these subtle differences even exist within the same tribe, between various craaft workers. Since Cheyenne
moccasin makers have for years been the acknowledged masters of the art, I have chosen to present the typical Cheyenne style of
cut and construction.
If you prefer to make another tribal style, I suggest first hand research of old photographs and museum examples
in order to produce accurately styled and decorated moccasins. There are many excellent books available with good photos and proper
identification of footwear. Some of these include: A Persistent Vision-Conn, Quill and Beadwork of the Western Sioux-Lyford, Blackfeet
Crafts-Ewers, Crow Indian Beadwork-Wildschutt and Ewers, Circles of the World-Conn, The Arapaho-Kroeber, Hau Kola!-Hail, and American
Indian Art-Feder, as well as many others. There are also a number of excellent 35mm slides and photos available from some of the major
museums which house large collections of American Indian material, such as The Museum of the American Indian in New York City and the
Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
Buckskin, 2 pieces approximately 11" X 12" each
Soles, Rawhide or Latigo
Shoestrings (leather thongs)
For the uppers, smoked, brain-tanned buckskin is the preferred material, but smoked Kootenai-tan is an excellent second
choice. See my links page for Indian craft trading companies that supply brain-tanned buckskin.
The next choice is commercially tanned buckskin, which has been widely used for some time. When selecting a hide, choose one that's not
too thick, as these are too difficult to bead on, but that is soft and stretchable and doesn't tend to tear. Soles should be made of rawhide
as it will outlast any other material, but, a good second choice would be a heavy harness leather or oil tanned latigo. When selecting
leather and laying out patterns, try to ensure that the material for each moccasin has the same skin thickness and quality. This results
in a nice, evenly matched pair of moccasins.
Step 1. First, draw an outline of your foot on a large piece of paper. Heavy butcher paper or a grocery bag works well for
this. Stand with both feet even and your weight evenly distributed. This is easier and more accurate if you have someone help by making the
outline for you. Keep pencil upright and draw your sole pattern as shown in Fig 1, approximately 1/4" to 3/8" longer than your foot. If you
do not plan to wear socks with your moccasins, make the sole pattern approximately the same length as your foot. Usually part of the small
toes and the protrudence on the inside of your foot just behind the big toe is ignored when drawing the sole pattern, and the inside line is
almost perfectly straight. In this way the moccasins will form to your foot and ensure a snug fit. Make a centerline lengthwise down the
pattern as shown in Fig 2.
A common tendency when first beginning to make moccasins is to cut the sole too wide. I recommend cutting just inside the
outline of the sole on both sides. However, this does not apply to the length of the sole! I suggest that you use the general shape of the
sole pattern shown in Fig 1 as a guide for drawing yours. Of course, this will vary somewhat with the individual's foot shape.
Step 2. In order to develop a proper upper pattern for your foot, cut a thin strip of paper and measure across your arch at
the point where you would tie a shoestring. measure from the floor across the arch to the floor on the opposite side as shown in Figure 3.
Find the middle of this measurement, place this point on the centerline, and transfer the dimension to your pattern.
Draw the pattern for the moccasin upper as follows: outline the toe area 1/4" to 1/2" out from the sole pattern. If the
moccasins are to be fully beaded, allow 1/2" to 3/4". After you draw around the toe, make a straight line through the points for the arch
measurement (Fig 4). Normally, the line of the arch measurement runs through the very center of the upper. Continue the pattern at least
1" - 2" past the heel. See Fig 2.
Starting at the heel, cut the pattern up the center line to the arch measurement (Fig 4). At this point, make a perpendicular
cut 2-1/4" in total length (1-1/8" on each side of the center line). The resulting cut forms a tall "T".
Step 3. Cut out the entire upper pattern and transfer it to your leather, including the T-cut as shown in Fig 4. Turn the
pattern over and do the same for the other foot. Be sure to mark the center point at the toe on your leather.
Step 4. Cut out the sole portion of the pattern, transfer it to the rawhide or sole leather, and cut out the soles. Again, be
sure to cut one right and one left by turning the pattern over. Then mark the center point at each toe. Note: the smooth side of the sole leather
will be on the outside of the moccasin. When using real rawhide, the hair side will be outside.
Step 5. Any decoration which is to be done to the uppers should be applied now. See my page for instructions on doing
lazy stitch beadwork. The beading should be applied starting 3/8" in from the edge, and at an angle
perpendicular to this edge. This allows 3/16" between the beadwork lane and sole, and 3/16" which is used in the whip stitch for added strength of
the seam. The accompanying diagrams below show typical bead row layouts. After the beadwork is completed, you are ready to attach the upper to the
sole by sewing inside-out. The decorative part will be face down while sewing as shown in Fig 5.
Step 6. Beginning sometime prior to 1900, a welt was sometimes added between the sole and upper of Cheyenne moccasins. Use of
the welt was especially common in Southern Cheyenne mocs after 1900, due to the influence of Reese Kincaid, an early Indian trader at Mohonk Lodge
in Colony, Oklahoma. This welt proctects the stitches and helps keep out dirt, thereby contributing to the life of the mocccasin. If a welt is
desired (and I recommend using one), cut a 1/4" strip of buckskin that is long enough to go around your foot and slightly overlap in the back. Be
sure you save enough soft, upper leather for tongues and tie strings.
Step 7. Before sewing, thoroughly soften the leather sole by bending it, concentrating especially on the toe area. This is more
essential when using genuine rawhide than when using commercially tanned leather such as latigo, but should be done regardless of the material
used. Now dampen the edge of the sole all the way around, and using the dull backside of a closed pair of scissors, scrape the edges very hard
as shown in Fig 6. This is an old Indian trick and tends to thicken the edge, making sewing easier.
Step 8. Simulated sinew is included for all sewing other than beading. Cut a 3 foot length and split it in two, then roll it on
your leg to make it round. Align the center points on the sole, upper, and welt as shown in Fig 7. Begin at this point and sew half-way down one
side, then do the same on the other side. Use a whip-stitch as shown in Figs 5 and 7, keeping your stitches very close together. The best Cheyenne
mocs are sewn with stitches that are approximately 1/16" apart, maximum. This gives a very fine appearance and makes the moccasin quite strong.
Sewing is facilitated by first piercing a hole in the rawhide with a thin awl. Pull each stitch very tight so that the welt and upper are snug
against the sole.
Step 9. After sewing completely around the sole, turn the moccasin right-side-out. Begin by pushing in at the toe and continue by
pulling the heel flaps towards the toe. When using very thick, stiff soles, it may be easier if the sole is dampened with a wet cloth for a time.
Avoid getting water on the uppers, especially if using brain-tanned buckskin! This is normally not necessary when using commercially tanned
soles. Next, try on the moccasins. Be very careful not to tear the upper while turning. Take your time and work the sole through the moccasin.
Step 10. Now mark the leather at the heel, where any excess needs to be removed. An easy method is to simply put on the moccasin,
hold the leather in place, and crease both pieces of the buckskin up the back of the heel with your fingernail. See Fig 8 for a detail view of this
step. Cut just outside your fingernail mark to remove the excess leather. This may or may not be necessary, but most often is. Overlap the two ends
of the welt, then sew up the back using a whip-stitch or baseball stitch. The method of sewing the heel seam is shown in Fig 9. For moccasins that
are fully beaded with fully beaded flaps, the flaps should be cut to a shorter height as shown in Fig 10. Partially beaded moccasin uppers are never
trimmed this way.
Step 11. Cut two tongues, using one of the styles shown in "basic patterns", above. Figure 11 shows the method of attaching the
tongues to the moccasisns with a whip-stitch. Fig 12 shows the most common Cheyenne method of attaching the tongue, by creating a "false" welt. Cut
two thongs long enough for laces, pierce small slits, then lace up your moccasins. Two methods of lacing are shown in Fig 10. If necessary, the sole
welt can now be trimmed to make it even, so fold it down over the edge of the sole and cut it off even with the ground as shown in Fig 13.
Important Note: One of the most traditional finishing touches for Cheyenne mocccasins is the two little "tails" found at the base of
the heel. These are formed from the two ends of the welt, but on moccasins made without a welt, they are sewn on as an addition. Your moccasins are
now ready to wear!
Construction and bead work instruction for making a pair of Lakota plains Indian Moccasins. With Benjamin Sitting Bull And Charlie Laroux