|Early Mississippi Dress|
2000 - 2001 Princesses
Little Miss Jill Williams, Junior Miss Crystal Wesley and Miss Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Natalie Jefferson
(Several of the paintings mentioned in this articles by George Catlin can be located from the Home Page)
Styles of the Ancient Choctaw's
By the year 1833, the Choctaw Indians of Mississippi were already on their way to adopting the styles of the European settler who had begun arriving in their villages in great numbers. Trade cloth, a bulky, loose knit material dyed in bright colors, was brought into the Choctaw villages by both the French and British, as were the pipe - tomahawks that were to become a symbol of the tribe.
Like the women of other tribes, Choctaw women took long lengths of the material, full bolt width, and simply folded it in half, cutting a hole for the head to pass through. In order to assure fullness in the dress, full-length gussets were sewn into each side. The dress was then ornamented according to the desires of the women, but usually following some tradition al customs. These might include seashells, fringe, feathers or even beads. As European glass beads become more available, the Choctaw women stopped making them from berries, seeds, and rocks.
It was during this same time period that many of the Choctaws, including the men, began to adopt some of the clothing styles of the Cherokee and Seminoles who come to trade in Choctaw villages.
In 1847, French artist Alfred Boisseau painted a picture titled, "Choctaw Indians Walking by the Bayou in Louisiana." In that Picture the Choctaw man is shown wearing only a very long shirt, made of brightly colored print material, a blanket, let wrappings and moccasins. This Print shirt (slipping off one shoulder) is common to those worn by the Seminoles of Florida during the same time period. The two women are only depicted with large blankets wrapped around their bodies and a small child seems to be searing an oversized plain shirt with the sleeves rolled up and covered with a poncho made of blanket material.
Moshulatubbe Peter Pitchlynn (The Snapping Turtle)
In 1834, Artist George Catlin painted two portraits that are well known to anyone who reads any material on Choctaw History. They depict two of our greatest leaders, Chief Moshulatubbee and Chief Peter Pitchlynn. This was to be the last time any of our leaders was to be pictured in anything resembling "Indian" clothing.
In both printings these men are wearing different versions of French Hunting coats. Pitchlynn's is certainly in the more classical frontier version of this coat worn by French explorers of the period, although his is made of cloth rather than the hide coats sometimes worn by the French in America.
Both men are wearing feathers in their hair, necklaces, and pullover trade cloth shirts with exceptionally wide collars. While Pitchlynn is portrayed empty handed, Moshulatubbee is seen with a medicine or "peace" pipe and a beautiful feather fan.
Note that Moshulatubbee wears a simple waist tie; much like a cumber bund but Pichlynn is wearing an embroidered stole across one shoulder and tied on the side, much like Deacons of some churches. It was a large version of the Chest ties or ornamentations worn by Choctaw men and called Baldrics. These were often narrow strips of colored material (usually red) and decorated with flowered embroidery or beadwork. They were worn crossed at the chest and tied on each side.
By 1850, Choctaw men and women had fully adopted the European style of clothing. Several authors have described meeting Pitchlynn at meetings or social events. A most gracious and charming man, finely dressed and well mannered. He lived in European style housing, often hosting large social gatherings. One must assume he wore the clothing of commerce and white mans politics. Gideon Linceum, a noted businessman who maintained close ties with the Choctaw people, reported keeping regular company with Moshulatubbee, whom he described in like manner.
It was the adoption of the frontier style "granny" dress that was to become the "traditional" Choctaw women's garb.
Although the Choctaw have continued to adopt each new clothing style that shows up our women have clung to the red cloth dress in frontier style as the native Choctaw dress. With its sometimes lace fringed white yoke and the traditional crown, and stopped with our ladies "crown" it is prominent at any of the tribal activities.
Source: Choctaw Nation.