The Council of Seven / Royal House of Pokanoket / Pokanoket Tribe / Wampanoag Nation



Native  Regalia in Southern  New England

Native Male From Southern New England circa 1600Native American regalia is special dress, ornamentation, jewelry and other paraphernalia which is worn for particular occasions such as festivals and dances, ceremonies and rituals. The style of dress, symbols used in designs, colors in beadwork and other ornaments can help identify the wearer’s tribe or family. Specific aspects of regalia can also indicate the wearer’s political or marital status.

New England Native Americans have a unique style of regalia different from other areas. One piece center-seam moccasins, porcupine quill, moosehair and floral beadwork appliqué, wampum belts, bracelets and headbands, brass and copper ornaments and certain kinds of featherwork are distinctive of New England. Traditionally in deer, elk, moose and other skins or hand-woven materials, Northeastern Native American Regalia now incorporates trade cloth, glass beads and other items of European origin.

Traditionally, regalia is set aside and worn only for special gatherings. Certain outfits or elements of clothing were undoubtedly worn only for particular ceremonies. Some regalia is sacred or has been ritually purified or blessed ("smudged" or wiped with the smoke of sacred herbs). Always seek permission before handling someone else’s special dress to avoid spiritual contamination of their regalia. Today, wearing regalia is a way to maintain Native American Heritage, to take pride in and pass on old traditions and help create new ones. Many traditional elements of pre-European contact regalia have been preserved since ancient times, but new styles of dance regalia evolved with the development of the Pow Wow festival.  Regalia is called just that, regalia. 

Though highly decorative, these outfits are never referred to as "costumes". The term costume denotes artificiality and wear that is donned for an event that is not a part of one's ongoing life. To the contrary, these Native American outfits are very personal and artistic expressions of the dancers' lives, feelings, interests, family and spiritual quest. Often elements of the regalia are gifts from elders or treasured people in the dancers' lives and are honorings to be worn with pride and responsibility. The regalia evolves and changes as the dancer evolves and changes in life. Each season, changes are made depending on the fashion of the time or the personal change in taste. There is no contradiction in blending historic elements with very modern elements, for example interweaving traditional beadwork with Minnie Mouse braid holders.

Since the regalia expresses the life of each individual dancer, design elements from many different sources are appropriate. It takes a long time to make an outfit. A person can go through life and keep adding on to their regalia. Because there are different circumstances that surround different items that a person adds to their outfit. When dancing, these things that are in the regalia bring out a their own sense of personality and the dancer's personal indenty.

Typically, regalia is handed down from one generation to the next when or from one family member to the next. For example, when childrens regalia is too small to wear as the child grows older then it's passed onto the another child in the family, whether its an immediate sibling or a cousin, niece or nephew. Another example would be that of when an adult passes away and has stated that a certain part of the regalia should be passed onto an offspring or other family member. The performance of this act helps pass on the special and spiritual bond associated with the regalia and allows for its properties and endowments to remain within the family.

Explanation of the Different Regalia

Men's Regalia

Women's Regalia

Universal Regalia

Explanation of Men's Regalia

Porcupine Roach - Roach headdresses were the most widely used kind of Indian headdress in the United States.  These headdresses are made of stiff animal hair, especially porcupine guard hair, moose hair, and deer's tail hair. This hair was attached to a bone hair ornament or leather base so that it stood straight up from the head like a tuft or crest. Often the hair was dyed bright colors and feathers, shells, or other decorations were attached. In some tribes, men wore their hair in a scalplock or crested roach style and the roach was attached to the man's own hair.  In other tribes, porcupine roaches were attached to leather headbands or thongs and worn over long hair or braids.

This is how they are most commonly worn today.  Roach headdresses were usually worn by warriors and dancers. Roaches are traditionally men's headwear, not worn even by female warriors. Their use varied from tribe to tribe. In many tribes, roaches were worn into battle, while more formal tribal headdresses were worn to ceremonial events. In other tribes, roaches were worn primarily as dance regalia. In some tribes, individual men chose to wear porcupine roaches while other men did not. Like other clothing styles, roaches sometimes went into and out of fashion.  A boy earning the right to wear a roach for the first time was an important ceremony in some tribes. Today, porcupine roaches can be commonly seen at powwows, where they are still worn as regalia by male dancers from many different tribes.

Ribbon Shirt - Each Native American tribe had its own unique culture, language, and clothing styles, but as the Eastern Native American tribes were forced to assimilate, the traditional ribbon shirt evolved. Based upon the loose, plain white cottone shirt of the early traders and settlers, the tribes east of the Mississippi river started to add their own decorations of shells, quills, beedwork, and embroidery to them. Over time, calico or patterned corron materials were used as they became available through the traders. By the mid 1800's, the popularity of these shirts started to spread west of the Mississippi river to the Plains tribes and through the northern Woodlands and Midwestern Native American tribes.

By 1900, ribbons became more readily available through the traders and soon this became the preferred decoration with all of the tribes. For many people, the ribbons symbolized fringe and, for many Native Americans, fringe represents prayers for the children and elders of the tribe. There are three basic styles of ribbon shirts, with the first one having either no collar sometimes referred to as the Original style, or a small standup collar called the Cherokee style, or those with a regular collar which are known as the Western Plains style ribbon shirt. Today, the ribbon shirt continues to be a favorite among most of the Native American tribes and they are worn in ceremonies, events, and celebrations as part of the regalia for PowWow and Social dancing and as formal or business wear. Currently, some tribes add the ribbons in association of their tribal colors to clear display which tribe their affiliated with when attending any and all Native American events.

Breech Clouts / Breech Cloths - A breechcloth is a long rectangular piece of tanned deerskin, cloth, or animal fur. It is worn between the legs and tucked over a belt, so that the flaps fall down in front and behind. Sometimes it is also called a breechclout, loincloth, skin clout, or just a flap.  In most Native American tribes, men used to wear some form of breechclout. The style was different from tribe to tribe. In some tribes, the breechcloth loops outside of the belt and then is tucked into the inside, for a more fitted look. Sometimes the breechcloth is much shorter and a decorated apron panel is attached in front and behind.

In most tribes, Native American men wore breechclouts or breechcloths sometimes with leather leggings attached in colder climates. In other tribes Indian men wore a short kilt or fur trousers instead of a breechcloth. Most Indian men did not use shirts, but Plains Indian warriors wore special buckskin war shirts decorated with ermine tails, hair, and intricate quillwork and beadwork. A Native American woman or teenage girl might also wear a fitted breechcloth underneath her skirt, but not as outerwear. However, in many tribes young girls did wear breechcloths like the boys until they became old enough for skirts and dresses.

Apron Panel -A breechcloth apron, breechcloth cover or apron panel refers to a decorated piece of leather or cloth that men wore over their breechclout for special occasions. They were especially used with the short or fitted style of breechcloth. Today a breechcloth apron is often worn with traditional men's outfits that used to include a breechcloth, but no longer do. Breechcloth aprons are usually handmade and either painted, embroidered, or decorated with beadwork or quillwork to make them attractive. 

Leggings - Breechcloths leave the legs bare, so Native American men often wore leggings to protect their legs. Native American leggings are tube-like footless pant legs, usually made from buckskin or other soft leather. They are not connected to each other--there is one separate legging for each leg. Both leggings are tied onto the same belt that holds the breechcloth with thongs that attach at the hip.  Legging styles varied from tribe to tribe. Sometimes they were fringed, like the ones in this picture. Sometimes they were painted with colorful patterns or decorated with beadwork or quillwork designs. Many Indian men tied garters (straps, thongs, or bandana-like cloths) around their leggings at the knee to help keep them in place.  Women and girls also wore leggings in many tribes, but female leggings were shorter and were not attached to a belt, simply gartered at the knee.

Moccasins -   A moccasin is a shoe made of deerskin or other soft leather, consisting of a sole and sides made of one piece of leather, stitched together at the top, and sometimes with a vamp (additional panel of leather). The sole is soft and flexible and the upper part often is adorned with embroidery or beading, and fringed leather. Historically, it is the footwear of many Native American tribes.  Etymologically, the moccasin derives from the Algonquian languagePowhatan   word makasin (cognate to Massachusett  mohkisson / mokussin, Ojibwa  makizin, Mi'kmaq  m'kusun),  and from the Proto-Algonquian   word *maxkeseni   (shoe). All American Indian moccasins were originally made of soft leather stitched together with sinew. Though the basic construction of Native American moccasins was similar throughout North America, moccasin patterns were subtly different in nearly every tribe, and Indian people could often tell each other's tribal affiliation simply from the design of their shoes

Tribal differences included not only the cut of the moccasins, but also the extensive beadwork, quillwork, and painted designs many Indian people lavished on their shoes. In some tribes hardened rawhide was used for the sole for added durability, and in others rabbit fur (or, later, sheepskin) was used to line the leather moccasins for added warmth. Plains Indian women also wore moccasin boots sometimes, which were basically just women's thigh-length leggings sewn to their moccasins for a one-piece look and are very beautiful when fully quilled. Heavier-duty boots called mukluks were the invention of the Inuit (Eskimos), who made them of sealskin, fur, and reindeer hide; some subarctic Indian tribes adapted the mukluk style through trade or other contact with the Inuit, using caribou or buckskin instead.

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Explanation of Women's Regalia

Feathered Headband -The Native American headband is also well-known from movies and other popular images of Native Americans. However, this style of headband was typically only used by a few tribes of the northeast Woodlands. Usually the headband consisted of a finger-woven or beaded deerskin strip with tribal designs on it. This band was then tied around the brow with a feather or two tucked through the back. Not only eagle feathers but turkey, hawk, egret, and crane feathers were also used for Woodland Indian headbands.  Unlike many of the Native American headdresses on this page, both men and women wore headbands, which were not associated with war. The number and type of feather did not usually have special symbolic meaning, though in a few tribes that bordered the Plains eagle feathers were reserved for warriors. For the most part, Woodland Indian headbands were worn for their beauty, and were often decorated with intricate patterns, wampum, beads, and quillwork.

Ribbon Dress - The Gloucestershire region of England produced most of the woolen cloth for the Indian trade. Known as "saved-list", "stroud", or "Indian" cloth, it often came in dark blue or scarlet. The term "saved-list" refers to the cloth's undyed lists or edges.  At first, Native women used woolen cloth sparlingly to make dresses. Later, with the increased availability of cloth, women made cloth dresses that followed the pattern of hide dresses. Even after less expensive dyes were developed around 1850, manufacturers continued to make these white-edged woolen cloths to meet the demand of Native women.  Being forced into closer contact with each other, tribes began to borrow each other's tribal dress...fringed buckskin clothing, headdresses, woven blankets.

Native Americans began to adapt European styles to their own style, decorating their clothing with beadwork, embroidery and designs...ribbon shirts, patchwork skirts, beaded jackets and shirts.  Because of forced relocation, some of the more "luxury" crafts had almost been lost, such as the beautiful bead work on moccasins, bags, belts and dresses. Too sick, hungry and cold to lavish time to make those items, efforts went to providing food, shelter and basic clothing.  Women elders are respected as the keepers of vast amounts of knowledge. Being an elder also put them in a position to accumulate valuable materials to put on their clothing such as elk teeth, seed beads, trade beads, brass beads, pony beads, different colors of wool and sinew.

Women sewed cloth dresses that incorporated the white edge or "saved-list" of the fabric as decoration along the sleeves and bottoms. European tailors usually cut off and discarded this undyed material.  At times, paint was used on dresses to signify a tribe, a tribal identity or even the region where the person came from. For instance, yellow paint signifies the flowers growing in the south.  The ribbon dress was worn typically during the warmer summer months and for during special ceremonies, powwows, and other religious ceremonies.

Deerskin or Buckskin Dress - Deerskin or buckskin dresses are made from the hides of the deer that have been hunted and slain as food for the tribe.  These dresses are used during the cooler months and for special occassions or spiritual events during the warmer months out of the year.  Some tribes make them as two piece outfits, with a top deerskin shirt being utilized with a skirt type covering for the legs, so the top can be removed while performing duties, while other tribes make them as one piece outfits.  Usually, the dresses are adorned with certain pieces of fur, bone, animal teeth, and beads, but this is dependant upon the person's personal interests, tastes, and availability of items.  Most times, these dresses will also have a significant showing of fringe around the sleeves, on top of the shoulders, at the bottom of the dress, and sometimes in various other locations or patterns throughout the outfit where ever there would be a joint or seam in the leather.  Some women would also tend to paint or utilize different colored leather or other material to add decorative or tribal patterns to their dress, to show not only individuality but also to indicate which tribe they were a member of while interacting with other individuals.

Jingle Dress -  As the story goes, a medicine man's granddaughter was very ill. He had a dream in which a spirit wearing the jingle dress came to him and told him to make one of these dresses and put it on his daughter to cure her. When he awoke, he and his wife proceeded to assemble the dress as described by the spirit of his dream. When finished, they and others brought his granddaughter to the dance hall and she put on the dress. During the first circle around the room, she needed to be carried. During the second circle around the room, she could barely walk and needed the assistance of several women. The third circle around the room she found she could walk without assistance and during the fourth circle around the room, she danced.

The dance associated with this dress was a gift from the Creator to the Ojibwe people for the purpose of healing. The dance was also present in the Lakota or Dakota tribes and has spread among other tribes. The dress features tiers of seven rows of jingle cones. The cones may have originally been metal lids of Copenhagen snuff and are now made of various other metal materials. Some instances of use of other noise making materials occur, such as bird bones or deer hooves. Dresses are decorated with ribbon, appliqué, paint, and beadwork with matching beaded leggings, moccasins, purse and hair ornaments. Eagle or other feathers and plumes are worn and a fan is carried and raised during the honor beats of the song. Old Style Jingle dancers do not wear plumes and don't carry a fan; they raise their hands on the honor beats in order to receive healing.

Fringed Shawl or Blanket - Fringed shawls are used by the women during specific dances and are usually carried draped over their arm, typically the non-dominate arm. The shawls are made from clothing fabric and are decorated with ribbons along the edges of the cloth. Different colored ribbon is sometimes used to provide a distinct color pattern for the shawl. Sometimes a pattern may be constructed in the middle of the shawl to express the owner's personality or tribal influence. Blankets are also used during specific dances and carried in the same fashion as the shawls. Typically, the blankets are of a light wool and will have varying patterns petaining to the owner's tastes, personality, or tribal influence. Both the shawl and the blanket are used during the blanket dance, with them being used according to custom to express a woman's marital status or availability to the men watching the dance. Other dances, the shawl or blanket will be draped over the arm and will be rhythmically moved back and forth in time with thr beat of the drum.

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Explanation of Universal Regalia

Native American Jewelry - Jewelry styles were different in every Native American tribe, but the differences were less marked than with other arts and crafts, because jewelry and the materials used for making it (beads, shells, copper and silver, ivory, amber, turquoise and other stones) were major trade items long before European arrival in America. After colonization, Native American jewelry-making traditions remained strong, incorporating, rather than being replaced by, new materials and techniques such as glass beads and more advanced metalworking techniques.

There are two very general categories of Native American jewelry: metalwork, and beadwork. Before Europeans came native metalwork was fairly simple, consisting primarily of hammering and etching copper into pendants or earrings and fashioning copper and silver into beads. After Navajo, Hopi and Pueblo artists learned silversmithing from the Spanish in the 1800's, metal jewelry arts blossomed in the Southwest, and distinctive native jewelry like the squash blossom necklace, Hopi silver overlay bracelets, and Navajo turquoise inlay rings developed from the fusion of the new techniques with traditional designs.

Native beadwork, on the other hand, was already extremely advanced in pre-Columbian times, including the fine grinding of turquoise, coral, and shell beads into smooth heishi necklaces, the delicate carving of individual wood and bone beads, the soaking and piecing of porcupine quills, and the intricate stitching of thousands of beads together. Porcupine quillwork has nearly died out (though some young artists are taking a renewed interest in it) but all of these other forms of beadwork are still going strong, though imported Czech seed beads have been the favored medium among many Indian artists for centuries now.

Originally, Native American beads were carved from natural materials like shells, coral, turquoise and other stones, copper and silver, wood, amber, ivory, and animal bones, horns, and teeth. Glass beads were not used until the colonists brought them from Europe 500 years ago, but like horses, they quickly became part of American Indian culture. Today glass beads, particularly fine seed beads, are the primary materials for traditional beaders of many tribes.

There are as many different Native American beading traditions, designs, styles and stitches as there are tribes and nations. Plains Indian beadwork is best known, with its intricate peyote stitch beading and bone hairpipe chokers, but there are many kinds of beadwork traditions throughout North America, from the wampum belts of the eastern Indians to the dentalium strands of the west coast Indians, from the floral beadwork of the northern Indians to the shell and turquoise heishi beads of the southwest Indians, and everything in between. Beads were a common trade item since ancient times, so it wasn't surprising to see abalone shells from the west coast in Cherokee beadwork or quahog wampum from the east coast in Chippewa beadwork, even before the Europeans arrived and forced disparate tribes into closer contact with each other.

As a great generalization, native beadwork can be grouped into beaded leather (usually clothing, moccasins, or containers) and beaded strands (usually used for jewelry, but sometimes also as ornamental covering to wrap around a gourd or other ceremonial or art object) For beaded leather arts, Indian craftspeople sew the beads onto a leather backing (or cloth, today). Each bead may be sewn on individually, or they may be attached in loops or rows of beads (as in the classic Plains Indian "lazy stitch" style.) To make beaded strands, a craftsperson stitches the beads together into strings or a mesh using sinew, thread or wire. Normally this is done by hand, but some tribes used bow looms to make belts or rectangular strips of beadwork. Beading strands and beading onto leather are both very complicated, time-consuming and delicate tasks which require many years of practice to do well.

Chokers - Chokers were worn by both the men and women in the tribe and were made from natural materials like shells, coral, turquoise, other various stones, copper, silver, wood, leather, amber, animal bones, horns and teeth.  Glass and brass beads weren't introduced to the Native American culture until the European colonists arrived.  Each choker is strung together using leather or sinew, with a three or four hole hard leather separator spaced evenly throughout the choker pattern.  The ends are drawn together through a piece of soft leather and fastened around the neck using a leather cord from both ends.  The pattern or design in each choker is dependent upon the owner and can have a personal, spiritual, or tribal influence within the pattern.

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July 2014

Summer Social 2014

We will be holding a summer family social in July 2014, at Mountain Hill Road, North Grosvenordale, Connecticut.  The event will be a potluck social, where various ceremonies and events will be performed.  It will be an enjoyable time for those who are able to attend.

More information will be made available soon about this event.




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