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"A Pedigree Partly Indian, Partly Batavian"

    First Americans

A Description of New Netherlands

Adriaen van der Donck - 1649


Of the Clothing and Ornaments worn by the Men and Women.

Their clothing is one fashion, and they are not proud of their dress, except some of their young persons, who forget it when they become old. Their women are more inclined to dress, and to wear ornamental trinkets than the men are; but they are not so proud as they are in Holland. The males, until they are twelve or thirteen years old, run nearly naked in summer. The females when they are able to run about, wear a little covering. They are all accustomed to wear a leathern girdle, which is usually ornamented with pieces of whales' fins, whale-bones, or
wampum (zewant). When the men can procure duffels cloth, then they wear a piece of the same half an ell wide, and nine quarters long, which they gird around their waists, and draw up a fold to cover their nakedness, with a flap of each end hanging down in front and rear. This dress does not appear uncomely, and it is light and airy in summer; and they frequently go without any other covering. It hides their nakedness, and bears the name of a breech-cloth.

Before they could obtain duffels cloth, and when it is not to be had, they wear a dressed skin cut in a proper form, and prepared for the purpose, which we commonly call a (cloot-sap) breech-cloth, which word in Holland may appear impolite but as words are intended to convey ideas, and to express the things intended, the term therefore has a common signification in that country, and will not offend the ear of a lady, or the delicacy of a maiden's taste.

The women also wear a cloth around their bodies, fastened by a girdle which extends down below their knees, and is as much as an under-coat ; but next to the body, under this coat, they wear a dressed deer-skin coat, girt around the waist. The lower border of this skirt they ornament with great art, and nestle the same with strips, which are tastefully decorated with wampum. The wampum with which one of those skirts is ornamented, is frequently worth from one to three hundred guilders. The men and women usually wear a plaid of duffels cloth of full breadth, and three ells long. This is worn over the right shoulder, drawn in the form of a knot about the body, with the ends extending down below the knees. This plaid serves them for a covering by day and for a blanket by night. Stockings and shoes (moccasins) made of deer and buffalo skins, are worn by both sexes; some of those they ornament curiously with wampum, &c.; but those articles are bad to wear. They also make shoes out of corn husks, which are not durable. Some of them purchase shoes and stockings from us, which they find to be most comfortable.

The men usually go bare-headed, and the women with their hair bound behind, in a club of about a hand long, in the form of a beaver's tail; over which they draw a square cap, which is frequently ornamented with wampum. When they desire to appear fine, they draw a head-band around the forehead, which is also ornamented with wampum, &c. This band confines the hair smooth, and is fastened behind over the club, in a beau's knot. Many believe these head-bands are like those worn by the ancient women. Their head-dress forms a handsome and lively appearance. Around their necks they wear various ornaments, which are also decorated with wampum. Those they esteem as highly as our ladies do their pearl necklaces. They also wear hand-bands, or bracelets, curiously wrought, and interwoven with wampum.

Their breasts appear about half covered with an elegantly wrought dress. They wear beautiful girdles, ornamented with their favourite wampum, and costly ornaments in their ears. Their young women and, their courtiers, when they desire to appear superfine, also paint a few black stripes on their faces. They usually appear sedate, as if they possessed no amorous feelings: they however only thus disguise nature. The men paint themselves uniformly, particularly their faces, with various colours, by-which they can so effectually disguise themselves as to deceive an acquaintance. In their parade time they appear very deceitful, and they will scarcely turn their heads to notice an object. Some of them wear a band about 'their heads, manufactured and braided of scarlet deer-hair, interwoven with soft shining red hair. With this head-dress, they appear like the delineations and paintings of the Catholic saints. When a young Indian is, dressed in this manner, he would not say plum, for a bushel of plums. They however seldom decorate themselves in this manner, unless they have a young female in view. Otherwise they naturally are filthy and negligent in their dress. In winter, when the weather is cold, the women and children do not go abroad much, and when they do, they cover themselves with duffels and other articles. The men, to defend themselves, against the cold, grease themselves with bear and racoon fat. They also wear clothing made of weasel, bear, deer, and buffalo skins, &c. With such dresses they can withstand the cold easily. At a word, they have all necessary raiment to defend themselves against the inclemency of the weather. In their best apparel, they know not how to appear proud and foppish. To white linen they formerly were strangers, but now many begin to wear shirts, which they buy from our people, and those they frequently wear without washing until the same are worn out.


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