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Pair of Moccasins

Arts of the Americas

The articles in this case and the adjacent clothing case [see 50.67.6] are some of the earliest and finest Eastern Plains pieces in existence. They were collected by Dr. Nathan Sturges Jarvis, a military surgeon stationed at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, between 1833 and 1836. Most items were made by the Eastern and Middle Dakota (Sioux) or by the peoples of the Red River region, including the Red River Métis, Anishinabe, Plains Cree, and Salteaux. Some of the objects were purchased by Jarvis, and others may have been given to him in exchange for his medical services.

By the early nineteenth century, the growing numbers of white settlers and military personnel—following decades of fur trading—had depleted much of the game on which the Dakota and Red River peoples depended. Indigenous ingenuity in combining trade materials such as cloth, metal, and glass beads with traditional hides, pipestone, and porcupine and bird quills is evident in these objects.
CULTURE Red River Metis
MEDIUM Smoked hide, porcupine quills, bird quills, sinew
DATES early 19th century
DIMENSIONS Each: 4 1/2 × 5 × 11 in. (11.4 × 12.7 × 27.9 cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of the Americas
CREDIT LINE Henry L. Batterman Fund and Frank Sherman Benson Fund
PROVENANCE Prior to 1848, provenance not yet documented; by 1848, acquired by Nathan Sturges Jarvis; 1848, gift of Nathan Sturges Jarvis to the New-York Historical Society, New York, NY; 1937, loaned by the New-York Historical Society to the Brooklyn Museum; 1950, purchased from the New-York Historical Society by the Brooklyn Museum.
Provenance FAQ
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Made of heavily smoked skin sewn with sinew, the vamps of these moccasins are decorated with a delicate, quillwork design. A central, vertically oriented, diamond shape in red is surrounded by four diagonal leaf-like elements in blue. The tri-lobed petals at top are red at center, blue on each side. The lower petals are red at center, white on each side. The seam is also outlined with blue and white bird quills. The moccasins are constructed without the usual characteristic center seam running from the toe to a vamp. A heel seam, center to the cuff and bottom, ends in two short tabs. There is no evidence that these moccasins were ever worn. See Jarvis supplemental file in Arts of Americas office.
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Red River Metis. Pair of Moccasins, early 19th century. Smoked hide, porcupine quills, bird quills, sinew, Each: 4 1/2 × 5 × 11 in. (11.4 × 12.7 × 27.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Henry L. Batterman Fund and Frank Sherman Benson Fund, 50.67.22a-b. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, CUR.50.67.22a-b.jpg)
IMAGE overall, CUR.50.67.22a-b.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2006
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