The First Warriors

Clothing And Adornment

Sixteenth-century Amerindian warriors from central Canada

Caption: Sixteenth-century Amerindian warriors from central Canada

View Multimedia - Canada's First Warriors

Caption: View Multimedia - Canada's First Warriors

At the time of the first contact with Europeans, the clothing of most Amerindians in the eastern forests was relatively simple. In summer, they went naked to the waist, wearing a sort of loincloth that passed between their legs, attached at the waist by a belt. They were shod in moccasins of soft leather, and sometimes wore long leggings fastened at the waist. In winter, they wore fur garments with long sleeves. All their clothing was cut from animal skins which women tanned, finished and sewed.

"Mainly when they went to war," Hurons wore headdresses "made of moose hair, painted red, and glued to a leather band about three fingers wide." 8 In the same circumstances, the Iroquois wore a kind of helmet consisting of a thin wooden headband with a hoop passing over the middle of the head with small sockets attached to hold feathers, whose length distinguished chiefs from simple warriors. 9 Other Amerindians tore out "all the hair on their heads, with the exception of a little tuft" 10 which they let grow and adorned with coloured feathers. In order to make themselves look frightening, Hurons and Iroquois applied various colours to their faces. In some cases they also had multicoloured tattoos on their bodies, often for religious and traditional reasons but also in order to terrify people who were not accustomed to them.