Porcupine quill moccasins, Santee Sioux, c. 1930. Porcupine
quills were the oldest form of American Indian embroidery. Gift of John Mitchell.
EVANSTON, ILLINOIS — A new exhibit featuring some of the best and most distinctive moccasins from the collection at the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian will be unveiled on Saturday, April 19. “Moccasins: Steps through Time” showcases the major decorative styles and structures in types of indigenous footwear worn throughout the United States and Canada.
A curator tour is scheduled for 2:00 pm on the day of the opening.
Visitors will explore the significance of beadwork and quillwork on
moccasins, how living in extreme environments affects footwear design and structure, the cultural significance of special designs, and view exceptional examples of children’s moccasins.
“The Mitchell Museum is fortunate to have a diverse representation of indigenous footwear in our permanent collection,” said Kathleen
McDonald, executive director. “Moccasins: Steps Through Time will offer visitors an in-depth look at these treasured pieces of clothing including how they reflect life cycle milestones and adaptation.”
For centuries tribes throughout the Woodlands and eastern Plains adorned their moccasins with dyed porcupine quills. In the 1850s, glass beads imported by European traders were readily adopted and overtook the use of quills because they were easier to prepare and apply. Only recently has quillwork resurged in popularity. The exhibit will highlight examples of traditional and contemporary quillwork and beaded moccasins as well as demonstrate how porcupine quills are prepared for clothing designs and more about the glass beads that followed.
The harsh winter conditions of the Arctic and the dry hot conditions of the Southwest demanded specific design adaptation in footwear. The exhibit includes examples of how Inuit and Athabaskan tribes created boots and slippers to endure harsh climates. Likewise, the woven shoes and tab-toe moccasins of the Southwest tribes were adapted to both environment and climate.
The Mitchell Museum is one of only a handful of museums in the country that focuses exclusively on the art, history and culture of American Indian and First Nation peoples throughout the United States and Canada.
In 2012, The Mitchell Museum was named “Best Museum of The North Shore: Up and Comer” by Make it Better magazine, won the Superior award by the Illinois Association of Museums and was named a national finalist by the American Association of State and Local History award program.
For more information about The Mitchell Museum of The American Indian, visit www.mitchellmuseum.org or call 847-475-1030. The museum is open Tuesday-Wednesday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday- Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors, students and children and Free for Mitchell Museum members and tribal members.