Museum Minute: Buffalo Moccassins

Jul 16, 2019

The Nez Perce Tribe historically was a nomadic tribe that roamed the Plains. The tribe is known for their use of color in beadwork using both geometric and floral designs. 

Hunter Old Elk, the curatorial assistant of the Plains Indian Museum, said  they often used black, white and red as well as colors of nature like blue and greens. 

“What’s spectacular about the Nez Perce tribe is their use of vibrant colors in the background,” said Old Elk. “You often see beautiful pinks and yellows filling in this region.”

That’s why a certain pair of moccasins stood out to her with a vibrant yellow background. The pair is made from tan deer hide and glass beads. 

“When you look at the moccasins you see a number of abstract geometric designs but as an overview and looking at the detail shots it creates an abstract buffalo head on both of the feet,” said Old Elk. 

She said this is significant for the Nez Perce because they relied solely on buffalo and other natural resources like deer and antelope for their livelihood.