by Rick Obermeyer
in 19th Century Seminole Men`s Clothing
These articles were researched and written by amateur scholars as an aid to other amateurs. All but one of the authors originally met each other in the Order of the Arrow, a national Scouting camping honorary, and credit their first interest in Native American crafts and culture to associations and activities within the O.A.
This information was arranged for those not only unfamiliar with Seminole clothing, but also unfamiliar with working with the materials- beads, cloth, buckskin, even with needle and thread. Following these instructions won't necessarily get you museum quality reproductions. Besides requiring more excruciating accuracy for that than is here, you'd also need to have period materials and genuine construction skills. What you will get will be reasonably accurate replicas very suitable for powwows, Scout ceremonies, and historical reenactments.
Seminole clothing exists in an odd historical "pocket." It arises out of general Southeastern traditions, but continued to exist (and evolve) long after the rest of that Southeastern Indian culture had been shut down either by extinction, by relocation to Oklahoma, or- just by being overwhelmed by white dominance. Seminole clothing styles were already well defined by the 1820's, a time when the Plains Indian cultural patterns that so many hobbyists admire and copy were only just beginning to fully develop. Southeastern cultural styles had climaxed and terminated before Plains styles matured as we know them. The Creeks were gone, the Cherokees overrun. After the 1830's, only the Seminoles kept going as a distinct culture' surviving even the traumas of the Second and Third Seminole Wars. The Seminoles' strong avoidance of any but the most necessary contact with whites, their voluntary isolation, kept their branch of Southeastern culture unique and distinct long after the rest was gone.
The builder of a Seminole outfit will learn that he has many of the same kinds of restrictions and freedoms that the assembler of a modern Plains fancy dance outfit has. Certain pieces are ALWAYS there. They define the outfit. They are always made or built the same way. But, there is space for a lot of personal preference- in colors, in finishing touches, in accessories. Two fancy dancers side by side will both have roaches, double bustles, beaded yoke set, bells, and angorasand still look very different. Two old style Seminole re-enactors will both have turbans, plumes, plain shirts, long shirts, moccasins, and sashes, and yet they can look completely different. There are "rules" that indicate what the parts of the outfit are, but there is also room for individual style.
And, there is always that great advantage of old style Seminole over Plains. You can't throw feathers into a washing machine.
Versimilitude: Quality or state of having the appearance of truth or reality
Creek = Seminole?: What ls Seminole "style"?
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© 1994 - Tara Prindle
unless otherwise cited.