historical clothing of the confederated tribes of the colville reservation
Buckskin clothing was the norm until white traders came to the area. Beaver and bear furs were favored for winter cloaks, robes, and blankets, and later buffalo hides after they aquired the horse.
The men wore robes during the cold months, but only a breechclout and moccasins for an ordinary day. The main purpose of leggings was so the person would not get hurt by sharp brush. War shirts were sometimes worn into battle, and on important or ceremonial occasions.
The women wore dresses, leggings and moccasins. Leggings, moccasins, shirts, dresses and skirts were made of buckskin before the introduction of fabrics. The Nez Perce and many other Plateau women usually made their clothes out of the skins of deer or mountain sheep or goats, but they could be made out of woven bark fibers.
Other plateau women became famous for their basket hats. They wove these out of dried leaves.
It was considered wealthy to have buckskin diapers, so often very young children went naked during warm months.
When mothers needed a cradle, they used drift-wood that was the right size and shape, covered and laced with buckskin. When a baby was born, the umbilical cord was saved for good luck, and this was usually sewn into a buckskin bag and hung on the cradleboard. Cattail fluff was used to absorb moisture between the buckskin on the board that was used to support the baby. They carried the cradleboard and baby on their back while they worked, or hung the cradle and baby in a nearby tree high enough to be safe from wild animals.
Early Plateau indians wore sandals woven of tule reeds wherever traveling through sharp stones or thorns. Later they wore moccasins. Moccasins most often were made from deer hide, but occasionally from salmon skin. You could tell what tribe a person was from by the style of their moccasins.
During celebrations all Plateau Indians, even children, wore decorative and fancy clothes. Men wore fancy pants and shirts and moccasins. Women wore fancy dresses and moccasins with leggings. Both sexes wore necklaces. Ceremonial clothing was decorated with painted symbols using ochre, intricate porcupine quillwork, and later beadwork. Among some groups clothing was decorated with dentalia shells. Mats and baskets woven for utilitarian purposes were often beautiful as well.
Hudson's Bay wool tradecloth later became a favorite choice for women's clothing and Pendelton Blankets are still a prized posession today.
Nez Perce Clothing
Traditional Nez Percé clothing was made of shredded cedar bark, deerskin, or rabbitskin. Men wore breechcloths and capes in warm weather, adding fur robes and leggings when it turned cold.
Nez Percé women were known for the large basket hats they wove out of dried leaves and plant fibers.
By the early 1700s, when horses expanded the tribe's hunting range and brought them into contact with tribes of the Pacific Coast and Great Plains, the Nez Percé began wearing tailored skin garments decorated with shells, elk teeth, and beads.
As they prepared to make war, Nez Percé men wore only breechcloths and moccasins and applied brightly colored paint to their faces and bodies. Red paint was applied to the part in a warrior's hair and across his forehead, while other colors were applied to his body in special, individual patterns.
The warriors also adorned themselves with animal feathers, fur, teeth, and claws representing their connection to their guardian spirits.
Elaborate adornments for the horses are also characteristic of Nez Percé society, including brightly colored beaded collars and saddlebags, appliquéd with brass tacks and bells added for decorative purposes.