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Classic 19th century Cheyenne stripe style "boots".

I have found in my research that Cheyenne boots were constructed less often than the normally separate legging and moccasin style. In both private collections as well as museum displays, boots are rarely seen. The central photo (Photo 2) of my previously published manuscript on 19th century Cheyenne women's leggings [1] was the signature pair of Cheyenne boots in the Denver Art Museum.


This edition of the Moccasin Corner features another rare and classic pair of Cheyenne boots (Photo 1) with fully beaded moccasin uppers I happened to find in Santa Fe several years ago. I kept this pair in my personal collection to study for a number of years and today it rests in the collection of a good friend who also appreciates Cheyenne work. This pair of Cheyenne boots is very similar not only to the pair in the Denver Art Museum, but also to the leggings and moccasins worn by Mrs. Black Elk, a Northern Cheyenne woman, in a photo taken in 1892 by A.L. Harris at Ft Keogh, Montana. This photo (Photo 3) has been reprinted here to show the striking resemblance between the moccasin beadwork decoration on this pair, and the pair featured in this article. There is no way to know whether Mrs. Black Elk's pair are actually leggings and moccasins, or boots, but the 1892 photo clearly shows what style of moccasin decoration is appropriate for stripe style leggings, and this in itself is an important piece of information. Notice that both pair have white backgrounds and are beaded with the "buffalo track" design motif, with small geometric horizontal design elements around the perimeter of the moccasin. Note that in the dark transparent green (most likely) buffalo track of Mrs. Black Elk's pair, there is a white lane of beadwork with two crossing elements in the center of each green track. As I have mentioned before in earlier work, Kroeber in his published work on Arapahoe symbolism [2] believes that this symbol is meant to represent a dragonfly near water. According to Kroeber, the Arapahoe associate the dragonfly/water combination with good luck. Notice that on this issue's featured pair that the "dragonfly" symbol is simply represented by a single white line on a green background.


If you look closely at the design elements arranged around the perimeter in the pair in Photo 1, and knowing from previous articles that the Cheyenne most normally used seven and in some cases five or nine design elements, can you count the number on this pair? Is the number here correct for a Cheyenne attribution? If you counted seven you would be correct for an analysis of this pair. Did you count eleven design elements instead? Not to worry, since both are odd numbers, either could be correct for a Cheyenne attribution, but the correct number is determined most accurately, if you can properly define the "design element" in question.

Without a lot of explanation or any proof provided, let me offer you the hint that the single "design element" on this pair is defined and featured on the central vamp lane of this moccasin. If you correctly observe that the real "design element" on this pair is the "dual arrowhead design" element flanked on each side by the dual red rectangles as integral parts of the design, you might see that there are in fact seven design elements spaced appropriately around the perimeter of the pair.

In conclusion, since we are examining a pair of boots, there are a few other insights worthy of noting that may be gleaned from a closer look at this pair. First notice how the lower edge of the legging is edge beaded and overlaps the moccasin slightly. This insight tells us that Cheyenne leggings are sewn to the moccasin upper using a whipstitch on the inside of the legging with a legging/moccasin seam that is not flush. This is different than the way Comanche and Kiowa "boots" (leggings) are constructed, and an important discriminator between these Southern Plain tribes. Notice also, that since the leggings are permanently attached to the moccasins, one can clearly discern that the seam of the legging "tube" belongs squarely in front. This tradition is also true for Kiowa, Comanche, Arapahoe, and Lakota women's leggings!

The stripe style leggings attached to this moccasin pair are consistent in every way to the analysis I presented in the 2001 article, and are classic Cheyenne in every sense! Finally, I hope this article provides one more example why 19th Century Cheyenne beadwork is held in such high regard.


(1) Kostelnik, M.C. "19th Century Cheyenne Women's Leggings, The 'Stripe Style' Revisited." Whispering Wind Magazine 31:3 (2001): 4-17. (Reprinted in Whispering Wind Crafts Annual #4, 2nd Edition, 2005)

(2) Kroeber, Alfred L. The Arapaho. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983.

Kostelnik, M.C. "Cheyenne Ladies' Leggings in Plains 'Military' Stripe Designs." Whispering Wind Magazine 22:6 (Winter 1989): 4-10.

Kostelnik, M.C., "Southern Cheyenne Boots Circa 1880s." Whispering Wind Magazine 22:4 (1989): 45.
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Title Annotation:MoccasinCorner
Author:Kostelnik, Michael
Publication:Whispering Wind
Date:Jul 1, 2006
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