Art of the Florida Seminole and Miccosukee Indians

By Dorothy Downs | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 1
Evolution of Early Dress

How do people without a written history recount their past? They must rely on word-of-mouth accounts such as stories told by the elders. These oral accounts refer to a mythological time very different from the concept of time familiar to us from the written historical documentation of European cultures. Like other North American Indian groups, the Indians of Florida now wonder whether they will be able to fit the pieces of the mythological puzzle together as they search for information about their beginnings. Even supplemented by modern anthropological or archaeological research and historical accounts, the picture remains far from complete.

It has been shown that changes in dress go hand-in-hand with historical developments and social transformation ( Weiner and Schneider, eds., 1989). One very effective way to track the evolution of modern Seminole and Miccosukee Indians from their ancient ancestors is thus to trace changes in their dress styles, especially because their major form of artistic expression has long been found in clothing or costume. Study of their material culture can reveal the impact on Seminole and Miccosukee social customs and values that resulted from their contact with Europeans and acceptance of commercially made products. It also indicates that the increased amount of time they spent in the business of the deerskin trade in order to acquire the enticing new goods introduced by Europeans diminished the time available for production of native arts and crafts. On a more positive note, it also reveals the people's tenacious ability to improvise, innovate, and create new but suitable modes of artistic expression. These changes will be demonstrated both by written accounts and visually. Historical drawings afford us information about the dress of the

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