Benton County Pioneer Life

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Pioneer life in the Benton Co. WA area

Enjoyed Humor Used in Sewing/Area Indians Deer, Elk Hides

Tri-City Pioneer
Tri-City Herald, Sunday, 5 August 1962

What clothing did the Indians of the Tri-City area wear before the white man came? The local Indians seldom wore head covering of any kind. The Indian and his squaw generally parted their hair in two braids which they wore over their shoulders. They often had ornate ties to their braids; sometimes white weasel ties and often beaver or muskrat ties. The scowl on the faces of the Indians was caused by the brightness of the sun and the lack of an eye shade.

The natural disposition of the regional Indian was very happy. They had a very keen sense of humor and enjoyed a good laugh.

The main source of clothing was deer and elk hides. They tanned the hides to fit their usage. The Indian squaws' dress was made from the soft tanned bellies of the deer or buckskins. Her undergarments and leggin's were made of the same material. The summer moccasins were made of buckskin; the winter moccasins were made of soft tanned elk hide. The male Indian wore shirts made from the same material as the squaws' dresses. Their leggin's and breech clout were also from the same materials and they wore the same kind of moccasins.

There were no deer or elk in the Tri-City region. It was necessary for Indians to form hunting parties and travel to the habitat of the deer and elk, which was near the summit of the Cascade Mountains, close to Cle Elum and Lester. There are Indian legends to the effect that the early Indians made water proof shawls out of woven tullies which they had soaked in bear oil. They also waterproofed their moccasins for winter wear with the same bear oil. The thread used to sew garments was sinews, made from the dear intestines. It was tough and durable. The process of sewing was tedious and slow, one stitch at a time. They often used a back stitch to prevent ripping. They punctured the material, sewed with an awl made from the thorn from a thorn bush, and threaded the sinew through each awl hole stitch by stitch. These early garments were trimmed by strips of (?age) cut from the hides of tanned buckskin and sewed to the under edges of the garments.

These early Indians made saddle bags to fasten to their early Indian saddles in which to carry their belongings. The early Indian mothers carried their young papooses strapped on a board which their hung on their backs. This portable crib had a sun and weather awning attached to protect the papoose from the weather. A squaw with a papoose generally rode a pony that paced but did not trot or canter. This gait in latter years was called a squaw trot.

Indian papoose rattles have been found, thus showing that the ancient Indian parent and child in their hearts were ? similar to the mother and child of today. Parental love and childhood affection seems to span the ages (?) all times and has been an anchor of hope in times of stress as human nature changes slowly.

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