Native Artifact: The Evolution of Abenaki Clothing.

Photo credit courtesy of Anita Carroll-Wendon, Director of Horatio Colony House Museum & Nature Preserve.
Abenaki were weavers and used milk weed fiber to weave clothing. They did not use hides until Europeans arrived.
The French and Indian War or Mid-18th century Abenaki clothing is very different than what one would imagine. They wore very little leather with the exception of moccasins, shot bag, a knife sheath and possibly leggings. There were few indigenous textiles in use with the exception of twined plant fiber bags made from milk weed.

Photo credit Jeniffer Afualo-Robinson. Courtesy of Anita Carroll-Wendon, Director of Horatio Colony House Museum & Nature Preserve. See Exhibit "Wearing Our Heritage" at
Made by hand through diligent weaving efforts of the Abenaki, this satchel would have been used to collect plants and seeds. Made by Vera Walker Sheehan. 
This archaic style dress (constructed of plant fiber) is a replica of Abenaki women’s attire pre-colonial contact. Made by Vera Walker Sheehan.
A reenacted deer hide dress. Made by Melody Walker Brook.

Interactions and influences from the French heavily impacted the change in dress of the Abenaki. 18th Century Abenaki Couple painting by Francine Poitras Jones, Nulhegan Abenaki.
Abenaki men’s satchel ornamented with wampum beads, trade cloth, and string. Made by Denise Poulliot.
Fashioned using a French men’s wool coat, the Abenaki men would wear this during extreme weather. It was altered by Abenaki women with the addition of ornamentation of wampum beads, French silk, and trade cloth. And using designs that were true to the Abenaki culture. Made by Rhonda Besaw.
The design and detail on the collar of this match coat is worth noting. Made by Rhonda Besaw.

White linen French style shirts and chemises were commonplace. Abenaki crafts people usually fashioned clothing from red and blue wool. Wool hoods, wrap skirts, leggings and breech cloths were decorated with silk ribbon. Abenaki’s wore match coats (blankets) to keep warm. Finger woven sashes (belts) and leg ties (garters) were made from yarn.

Ornamentation’s were an important addition to clothing. The Abenaki wore silver or brass nose rings and ear ornaments. European trade goods were strung into everyday wear. European glass wampum beads were strung and worn much as costume jewelry is worn today. They also wore European trade silver pieces such as nose rings, arm bands, wrist bands and earrings. With so many new items available, Abenaki men still wore white shell “moons” at the breast.

18th Century European influences of dress and attire on the Abenaki women inspired them to weave hoods to imitate the French women colonists. This practice was commonly used when an Abenaki women came of age.

Made by Lori Lambert., an Abenaki descendent., who's last name translated means "Lame Bear".
Abenaki women’s headgear made of French lace, ribbon, cotton thread, and cotton lining with white cut seed beads. The bead work is in the style of the curved motif from the Wabanaki Confederacy. Made by Lori Lambert.


Horatio Colony House Museum & Nature Preserve; exhibit and oral history hosted by museum director Anita Weldon.

“Alnobak: Wearing Our Heritage Exhibit” co-curated by Vera Longtoe Sheehan and Eloise Bell, presented in partnership with the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association and Lake Champlain Maritime Museum.

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