Tribal Artery

Janet Littlecrow of Oklahoma, has responded to our article on Seminole costumes
and crafts with additional information from her expereience. While she claims to be
"no expert," who of us is? We reprint her comments here with her permission.

"Seminole and Miccosuki (sic?) fashions before the advent of foot-treddle powered
sewing machines were much like Creek dress at the time, thin horizontal bands of
fabric sewn together in colorful combinations.

For anyone who has ever done Seminole style patchwork, it's easy to understand
why this began only after the coming of sewing machines. Some of the designs were
orginally based on colorful featherwork designs that were popular among
southeastern Indians in earlier (better) times. The earliest designs were very simple,
but have progressed to unbelieveablely complicated designs today. The best work
is normally only made for family members to wear during annual Green Corn ceremonies,
not for the tourist market. Many of the designs have names, and some represent clans
within the tribe. Today, the bottom band on the skirts is often a clan design to identify
the clan relationship of the wearer, but this was not always true.

The earliest flounced tops were made to keep the sun off of the shoulders and for
decoration, and much to the dismay of missionairies, often didn't cover the women's
breasts. Our southeastern tribes generally didn't practice modern modesty standards
before the coming of missionaries, and summertime heat and humidity was as unbearable
then as now. The body of the flounce shirts started becoming full blouses after white
contact increased. With the invention of sheer rayon fabrics in the 1940's, the cape
blouse became popular, because they were cool but still kept the flies and mosquitos
off of the wearer. A cotton tank top or t-shirt is normally worn under the sheer capes.

Today's Oklahoma Seminole ladies skirts and capes often incorporate metalic lame'
fabrics, and I've even seen a skirt made with flourescent fabric accent colors. I haven't
seen any men's jackets made with these fabrics yet, but we haven't attended any events
down in Seminole country yet this year. A recent Seminole Color Guard princess had a
very culturally-appropriate Seminole outfit made with camoflauge print fabric as the main
fabric. Some of the older flounce blouse styles have started to reappear at events, and
I've had several inquiries about making one based on old photos. Indians have always
used whatever beautiful things they find in the white world, and nothing has changed.
Metalic and flourescent fabrics are popular today, especially with the young people.
For those purists out there who don't like it (yes we've run into some white people
who try to tell Indians how to be Indian) I can only say that ours is a living culture,
always evolving."

Copyright 2005 Aboriginals: Art of the First Person