Native American Clothing

bind old pieces of cloths and rags about my legs in imitation of the dressed and smoked buckskin leggings so universally worn by the full blood Creeks of that day..." Headgear

In 1859, Grayson, who made a point of having his clothing "cut and sewed by the tailor and in the prevailing style," was embarrassed to be seen with his father, who habitually wore a turban fashioned out of a shawl. Such turbans, brightly colored and fringed and often imported from Russia, were still worn and decorated with feathers and silver rings. Narrower woven sashes were also worn wrapped around the head, as were silk and cotton bandannas. Other traditional styles were adopted in war. Private Sparks saw Choctaw, Chickasaw and Creek warriors in 1861:

"Some had head coverings that were the skins from the heads of buffalo, bear, panthers, cougars, calves, etc., and quite a number wore the horns taken off with the hide of a buffalo, and others wore 110 head covering, only a single feather like it might be plucked from the tail of a turkey, eagle, buzzard, or anything else that the wearer might fancy, I noticed one old warrior on foot who carried a long full stock rifle, he wore leggings and mockasins [sic] in addition to his breech clout and a feather about four feet long that was taken from the tail of a peafowl was his complete wardrobe."


Leggings, of buckskin or wool, were generally hip-length and fastened to a thong or narrow belt around the waist, though some were shorter and supported by garters at the knee. These latter could be of hand-woven wool with beads in geometric patterns, or of buckskin painted, beaded or quilled. The Seminole favored a tight legging with a gaiter-like extension at the foot, and a similar surviving buckskin pair is attributed to the Cherokee. Buckskin leggings might be fringed, beaded or embroidered, generally in floral style among the Cherokee. Moccasins

Moccasins were generally of one-piece, center-seam construction, with a pointed toe and a separately added cuff. The seams were often covered with quill- or beadwork, and the cuffs with silk, velvet or wool trimmed with beadwork. Contact with the Plains tribes may have introduced the center-seam or hard-sole patterns. Barefoot refugees in Kansas were issued with shoes where possible, but were given blanket cloth for the women to make moccasins for their children until skins could be provided. Shirts

When breechcloth and leggings were worn the shirt was worn loose over them. These were generally made in square-cut pullover style, sometimes with ruffles and frills or ribbon work appliqué; the materials were homespun, linen and cotton prints or even buckskin.

Woolen Cherokee


In this image, the Cherokee Zeke Praetor of the Confederate Army's Indian Division wears a striped, fringed woolen hunting shirt. A second surviving photograph shows him wearing a Union sack coat and military waistcoat (like many Confederate Indians) and a dark slouch hat decorated with turkey feathers, and armed with a pair of revolvers carried butt-forwards on a M1851 waist belt. (Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society)

Creek Indian Clothing

Captain Micco Hutka, commanding Co F of the Union's 1st Indian Home Guard, wears a hunting shirt over a civilian coat. This Creek supporter of Opothleyohola corresponded with the Federal authorities. After the Creeks' defeat at Chustenahlah the Confederates found his letters from the US Indian Commissioner, promising that "the President is still alive... his soldiers will soon drive these men who have violated your homes from the land they have so treacherously entered." (Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society)

Hunting shirts

Hunting shirts developed during the later 18th century, and their design was echoed by some of the uniforms adopted by volunteer units in the early days of the war. In the Territory the hunting shirt had remained in use, worn even by those who had abandoned other native clothing. Surviving buckskin hunting shirts have two capes and are knee length, tailored and cut so as to wrap around the body and be held in place bv a sash or belt, though some have one or two small buttons to secure them at the collar. (Sashes also remained popular. The Potawatomi of Kansas were described as dressed like their white neighbors, but with a fondness for colored sashes.)

The shirts might have short fringes at the hem, center seam, body, capes, sleeves or cuffs. Decorative styles include ribbonwork appliqué, floral and geometric beadwork, and floral silk embroidery, but plainer examples were also made. Similar decoration was also applied to waistcoats.

Cotton, wool or homespun examples were more usual than buckskin. The McKenney and Hall portraits show striped and printed patterns, with ruffles at the collar and shoulders being more common than capes. A surviving example in the collection of the Oklahoma Historical Society shows further development, being cut shorter to mid-thigh level and with two inset pockets, while retaining a caped collar.

The Agency tribes

The tribes on the Wichita Agency - the Wichita, Waco, Caddo, Kichai and Tonkawa - retained their traditional dress, with the adoption of trade cloth and blankets, and were influenced by their Plains neighbors the Comanche, Kiowa and Arapaho. The Quapaw, Seneca and Shawnee adopted some elements of white dress, while the Osage remained defiantly traditional. The Kickapoo ranged between Kansas and Mexico in an attempt to remain free from white restrictions, and the Delaware traveled widely and absorbed many influences.

Traditional war customs

The use of paint was traditional amongst Native Americans. During the War of 1812, Cherokee warriors were described as hav ing red, white and yellow slashes on their chest and face when on the warpath; and the Seminole used paint during their guerrilla war in the swamplands. Creek men depicted in the McKenney and Hall portraits of 1836 have red and dark blue patterns on their foreheads and cheeks. These range from horizontal and vertical slashes to circular and linear patterns composed of small dots. Similarly, sketches made in the Choctaw Nation in 1853 show men and women with semi-circular lines under the eyes, and a woman with a zigzag line on the forehead and vertical lines on the chin.

Some of these may be tattoos, using charcoal or gunpowder and red sulphur as coloring. Facial and body tattooing had been widespread among men and women, but it declined as acculturation increased. The Cherokee maintained the practice of "scratching'1 for ceremonial or ritual purposes, using a sharpened comb of cane splinters or turkey quills, but without learing permanent marks. By 1861 it is likely that only older, full-blood warriors would have had tattoos.

The outbreak of the Civil War brought a resurgence in war paint. Texans in the Territory during the early fighting noted its use; Pte Sparks described "Cooper's Indians" thus:

Early Choctaw Hair Style

Photographed after the war, these Choctaw men wear civilian clothes similar to those worn earlier, though the waistcoats would probably have had a shawl collar or lapels. The hunting shirt (right) is the shorter version which was coming into use in the 1860s - see Plate B. (Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society)

Photographed after the war, these Choctaw men wear civilian clothes similar to those worn earlier, though the waistcoats would probably have had a shawl collar or lapels. The hunting shirt (right) is the shorter version which was coming into use in the 1860s - see Plate B. (Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society)

"... their faces were painted in such a manner that many of them were frightful to even look upon, there seemed to be no particular design in the manner of their painting, but each one seemed to have been painted according to the fancy of the artist but the most common way of painting appeared to be about three lines of deep red from the edge of the hair down the forehead and met between the eyes, then a large red spot on either cheek that would resemble the outline picture of the sun with spangles, all of red, sometimes black spots, too, were painted and sometimes the eyes were made red, and the mouth outlined to each ear and some were painted black down to the eyes, then the balance of the face red, and many hideous looking faces told of desperate purposes, but if any of them bespoke any rank or had any special meaning I failed to learn them."

Opothleyohola's Creek warriors also painted for war, probably in a similar manner as field signs were used for identification. Sparks was not alone in his mystification as to the symbolism. Although he does not mention it, Opothleyohola's followers wore corn husks in their hair. This served as identification, but also had some ritual significance, probably connected with the kituwah society to which many full-blood Indians belonged. Perhaps the only safe conclusion is to note the traditional meanings of red for war and blood and black for death - but even then, Wiley Britton was told that warriors in the Union Indian Brigade painted their faces black when they were fighting hungry. He had campaigned with them, and wrote:

"When starting out on the march every morning any one with this command may have seen this warrior in full war-paint and he might have also heard the war-whoop commence at the head of the column and run back to the rear, and recommence at the head of the column several times and run back to the

Pictures Caddo Delaware Clothing

After service in the Mexican War and as a scout, the Delaware Black Beaver settled at the Wichita Agency. For guiding Col Emory's Union force to safety, his farm was destroyed and a price put on his head; the Delaware and many other Indians followed him to Kansas, enlisting in the 2nd Indian Home Guard. This group are, left to right, standing: a Kichai Indian; Ararhe (Pawnee); Black Beaver; and Kne'wah-ka-sets (a Kichai chief). Seated: Long Horn (Delaware); Assadawa (chief of the Wichitas); and Possum, who also guided Emory's column. This shows the mix of clothing to be found in the Territory. Black Beaver wears a coat and tie, in contrast to the beaded buckskins and leggings of Chief Assadawa. Trade blankets are worn with shirts, and Kne'wah-ka-sets has an Army overcoat and a presidential peace medal. Bows are prominent, though possibly for their symbolic value only. (Smithsonian Institution)

Private Sam Love of the 6tli Texas Cavalry remarked that "while we were forming the Indians were barking like a dog, howling like a wolf and yelling and gobbling like a turkey." The turkey-gobble was a common war cry amongst the Civilized Tribes, and another Texan noted how Opothleyohola's Creeks taunted them by slapping their sides and gobbling.

They may have been influenced by the other tribes encountered after removal. The Osage, who were well known, had continued the practice of tattooing and used elaborate paint on both themselves and their horses. Some of their warriors joined the Indian Home Guard in 1862, the same year that a Confederate Osage Battalion was raised.

Meetings between the Plains Indians and the Civilized Tribes were not uncommon. Cherokee Mar)' Scott Gordon later described how during the war "The wild plains tribes of Indians met at Armstrong Academy [the wartime capital of the Territory] and asked the half-breed Cherokees to go home with them... A young Arapaho Chief asked papa to let him see his daughter. I was scared to death. He was painted up in green and red paint. He...offered fifty blankets and fifty ponies for me. Papa teased me and said he'd better sell me because he probably wouldn't be offered that much again."

In December 1864 Gen Maxey wrote that, in council at the same place, he had seen "...a 'heap of big Indians' with paint in their hair." Earlier that year, some of Watie's men had painted themselves before the Second Battle of Cabin Creek.

It is likely that the use of warpaint declined amongst the Indian Home Guard as the war progressed and they became increasingly disciplined. (Women also used paint. Emma Sixkiller recalled that when their home was looted there were several women in the gang painted and dressed so as to disguise themselves.)

Painting was only part of the ritual to be performed before going on the warpath. During a lull in the fighting at the Second Battle of Cabin Creek, Lt Grayson's Creek warriors offered him "certain Indian war medicine said to afford protection against the casualties of battle... and

Caddo Indian Clothing

Caddo Indians; originally from the lower Mississippi area, the Caddo in the Territory had moved from Texas along with the Kichai, a related tribe, in 1859. They adopted the horse and elements of Plains Indian culture, as can be seen in this post-war photograph. (Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society)

Caddo Indians; originally from the lower Mississippi area, the Caddo in the Territory had moved from Texas along with the Kichai, a related tribe, in 1859. They adopted the horse and elements of Plains Indian culture, as can be seen in this post-war photograph. (Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society)

Caddo Wichita Native Americans

A post-war photograph of a Delaware and a Caddo. Delaware Jack Harry (left) wears a fringed hunting shirt in pullover style, with a trade blanket, beaded buckskin leggings and moccasins. Bar-cin de-bar (right), a Caddo, has a wool or cotton shirt and wears his blanket in the traditional style. (Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society)

A post-war photograph of a Delaware and a Caddo. Delaware Jack Harry (left) wears a fringed hunting shirt in pullover style, with a trade blanket, beaded buckskin leggings and moccasins. Bar-cin de-bar (right), a Caddo, has a wool or cotton shirt and wears his blanket in the traditional style. (Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society)

distributed it to those who desired its protection, which they proceeded to use by nibbing it on and about the clothing of the body and limbs."

The war- and scalp dances were still performed. Confederate Indians would gallop their horses round the flag pole at Boggy Depot singing their war songs, and the Osage certainly held a scalp dance after Hard Rope's victory (see commentary Plate F). Indeed, too strong a retention of their traditional customs, which included scalping and taking heads, was one of the reasons Osage warriors were later dismissed from the Home Guard.

Scalping was also practiced by the Civilized Tribes. Sparks attended a scalp dance where the warriors set up a bush within a circle, "and on these limbs were fastened the scalps taken in battle. The usual war whoop was sounded and the same solemn chant and the dancers with paint and arms were performing various quicksteps... at a given signal a warrior was seen to jump into the ring with knife and hatchet in his hands. He made many fierce high jumps as though expecting an enemy, who soon made his appearance on the opposite side of the ring... while the others keep up the chant and the march... they leap at each other like game chicks for a period of several minutes, when finally one will fall while the other stands proudly over his victim waring high above his head a knife and bends down and with a quick movement of the arm he apparently takes off his scalp amid a deafening, howling roar that I cannot describe."

Controversy after the battle of Pea Ridge led to condemnation, but scalping bv Confederate and "Pin" Indians continued in the Territory. Some of Quantrill's men adopted the practice, and "Bloody Bill" Anderson was reported as having scalps fastened to his bridle.

Indian weapons

Firearms are described above under "Confederate Weapons."

In the first year of the war Texans described the use of war clubs, scalping knives, tomahawks and bows. Early bows designed for use on foot had staves between 55in and 67in long, later reduced to 40 or 50 inches. They were made of cypress, Osage orange, black locust and hickory, with bowstrings of rolled gut or rawhide, and were sometimes decorated. A surviving Choctaw bow has a black painted design of semi-circles containing black spots along the edge, with larger spots in the center. A Creek bow has geometric burned-in incised patterns. Arrows were fletched with turkey, guinea fowl, eagle or hawk feathers and sometimes painted, generally with red and black hoops. .Antler points were seen, but most arrowheads would have been of iron. Quivers were deerskin, sometimes with the hair on, with an attached bow case. A surviving Delaware quiver is fringed and trimmed with red cloth and a band of quillwork around the top; and a Kickapoo quiver had a strap of striped cotton ticking.

These Tonkawa men were photographed after the war, but retain elements of traditional dress, particularly the roach. The Tonkawa settled on the Wichita Agency, but relations with other tribes were not good; from a different language group, they were less dependent on agriculture. It was rumored against them that they practiced cannibalism; more to the point, they had scouted for the Texans and were loyal to the Confederacy. On October 23, 1862, some 100 Kickapoo, 70 Delaware and 26 Shawnee of the 2nd Indian Home Guard destroyed the agency, killing four employees. The following day agency Indians joined in an attack on the Tonkawa; over half of the tribe were massacred, less than 140 reaching the safety of Fort Arbuckle. The survivors moved to Texas, not returning to the Indian Territory until 1884. (Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society)

Wichita Indians Clothing

By 1862 the bow had fallen out of use. Union Indians were regularly issued with firearms, and although Confederate Indians were frequently reported as being unarmed, no attempts were made to encourage the use of the bow. There could be several reasons for this: its short range, the need for long practice to achieve proficiency, and the fact that the Civilized Tribes had been introduced to firearms so long ago that most warriors regarded the bow as an anachronism. Perhaps Indian officers also recognized that use of the bow' would reinforce the stereotype of "Wild Indians" which they were at pains to avoid - particularly in view of the Federal propaganda spread after the battle of Pea Ridge.

Tomahawks and axes would have remained in use as tools, if not as weapons. The Indian Home Guard was issued with between six and eight axes per company, but Confederate troops were not always so fortunate. In December 1863, Gen Maxey noted that the Choctaw Brigade had no axes or hatchets to enable it to build winter huts, and that no tents were available.

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