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Article: Hohe Dress

As described by First Boy - James Larpentuer Long, Fort Peck Assiniboine-Sioux, in The Assiniboine: From Accounts of the Old Ones Told to First Boy (James Larpenteur Long), edited by Michael Stephen Kennedy , University of Oklahoma Press, 1961, p 88-92 (originally published as Land of the Nakoda by the Montana Writer Program in 1942)

Most skins used for robes were tanned with the hair left on. However, the light robes for children and those used for extra bed covers were usually tanned skins of short buffalo yearlings or calves from which the hair had been removed. But many people preferred the calves' skins tanned with the hair left on. Two-year-old buffalo hides made the best robes when tanned by expert tanners. Unfortunately, all women were not good tan-ners just as all men were not good hunters.

For their day clothing, the early Assiniboines used antelope, deer, elk, and moose skins, from which the hair was removed before tanning. Antelope skins were the lightest in weight; moose, the heaviest. The tanned skins of these animals were always known as buckskin.

The early people dressed simply. Men wore headgear made of skins, which were sometimes decorated with feathers or strips of skins from small animals. They wore three-quarter-length coats which also served as shirts. Their leggings were each held up by a single strap, one end fastened on the outside and the other wrapped around the belt or tucked under it. Robes were worn with the hair against the body both to give additional warmth and to show the decorations on the smooth side of the skin. Before beads came in with the Hudson's Bay traders and for a long time after, decorations were done in colored quillwork and paints. The clout, a pair of moccasins, and the robe nearly always completed the men's dress, except during the most se-vere weather.

The men's costumes for ceremonial use were the same in style as their ordinary clothes, but with more decorations, for which quills, feathers, hair, and fur were used. Some of the medicine men made their personal headgear in the likeness of something they had seen in a dream or vision.

Women's dresses were in one piece, cut full, and worn with a belt. Leggings, held up by garters and tied just below the knees, were worn. Their moccasins were made with high tops. Robes that ordinarily covered the head were used. A kind of hood and long fur mittens were worn in cold weather.

The buckskin dresses worn by women at dances were elab-orately decorated. The cut was always the same, but the designs were different. Porcupine quillwork in many colors was the principal ornament. The bottoms were either fringed or trimmed with deer-hoof shells. Sleeves were fringed to the elbow. The length of the fringe determined the value of a dress, with extra -long fringe increasing the value considerably. Dresses trimmed with elk's teeth were rare and valuable. With much pride, women told of the number of such dresses they had owned during their lifetime.

Children wore clothes very much like those of their parents. During social gatherings, they, too, wore their decorated suits and dresses made from deer skins.

During the winter and spring, everyone wore moccasins with soles and uppers made from the tops of old lodges. Of course, such hide had been smoked when used on the lodge. Footwear made from it was not waterproof, but it never became hard or cracked from continuous use during the wet season like other leather. The moccasins were cut extra large in order to fit over the heavy coverings used on the feet, for during the cold season, buffalo hair was matted into pads of different thicknesses which the Assiniboines wrapped around their feet. Moccasins worn in warm weather were close-fitted and soled with stiff, dry hides.

Cold-weather moccasins were also made with high tops to protect the ankles. Since they were made only for service, they were not decorated in any way. The men put many applications of grease on the soles to make them waterproof.

Men and boys wore low-cut moccasins during the summer. Sometimes they were only partly decorated. Other times decor-ations covered the whole top and ran back to the heels. Women's and girls' moccasins, although always made with high tops, were decorated in the same manner.

Women parted their hair in the middle and wore it in two braids, which either hung down in front or were tied together in tire hack by the ends. Sometimes the ends were tied at the back of the neck so that the braids formed loops and hung over each shoulder in front.

The old women painted their entire faces. A thin grease was first smeared over the face, and then vermilion paint was put on over it. Young women merely painted their cheeks. The paint served two purposes, to improve their looks and to guard against sunburn.

Women among the northern bands tattooed their chins in stripes which ran from the corners of the mouth downward, with two or three vertical stripes directly below the lips. A few of the women tattooed dots on their foreheads which were from one-eighth to one-quarter of an inch in diameter and were done by men skilled at tattooing. The large quills from the tails of the porcupines were used to prick the skin, and charcoal was rubbed into the spot. After they healed over, the spots were a dark, bluish color.

Men wore their hair long in back and unbraided. The fore-lock was cut short and either hung to the brow or curled up. White clay was sometimes smeared on the hair to keep it in place.

When they were going to be out and exposed to the weather for a considerable time, men painted their faces and their hands up to the wrists with vermilion. At home in camp, they did not always paint themselves.

For jewelry, young men wore armbands made of skin from the deer's ankle, with the hair and two "buttons" left on. Old wren wore earrings of twisted sinew, sometimes decorated with shells or ornaments which they made themselves and patterned after designs seen in dreams or visions. As a rule these designs were never copied. They also wore necklaces fitted snugly around the throat.

Among the ornaments worn by women were garters with long quill-covered strings and shell tassels that hung to the ground.

The variety of ornaments as a whole was not large or rich in colors until after the white traders brought beads, imported shells, metals, and many other things to the Assiniboines.