moccasin, skin shoe worn by indigenous people of North America, excepting the sandal wearers of the Southwest area. There were two general types of moccasins, the hard-soled, which was used in the Eastern woodlands and the Southeast cultural areas, and the soft-soled, used in the Plains area. The hard-soled moccasin was made by sewing, with sinew thread, a rawhide sole to a leather upper piece; the soft-soled moccasin was one piece of soft leather with a seam at the instep and the heel. Boot or legging moccasins (sometimes reaching the hip) were worn from Alaska to Arizona and New Mexico, but they were generally part of the woman's costume. The moccasins of certain tribes were distinctive, and sometimes a moccasin track could indicate the tribe of the wearer. Moccasins were usually symbolically decorated with porcupine quills and, after the coming of the Europeans, with glass beads. Special moccasins were used for ceremonies such as the Iroquois adoption service, which required that a recruit put on Iroquois moccasins to indicate that he would follow Iroquois ways.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.