New book from Cherokee Museum describes Cherokee clothing in the 1700s

Press release from Museum of the Cherokee Indian:

Cherokee Clothing in the 1700s: with Information from Previous and Following Centuries, by Barbara R. Duncan, has just been published by the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. A fashion show of this traditional clothing will launch the book at 7:30 p.m. Friday October 7 at the Cherokee Fall Fair, in the town of Cherokee. In addition, contestants in the Miss Cherokee pageants will be wearing this style of clothing during their competitions Tuesday through Thursday evenings at the Fair.

“The Warriors of AniKituhwa represent Cherokee dance and clothing c. 1760, a time when our culture was intact. We had our language, our government, our land base,” said Bo Taylor, Executive Director of the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. “Not only have the Warriors chosen this clothing, but the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has adopted this to represent our people in the Miss Cherokee pageants, in our advertising, and what we present to the public. Children’s dance groups, the outdoor drama, the Oconaluftee Indian Village, all have adopted this style. I am proud that the Museum has been the center of this research and the catalyst for a positive change for Cherokee people.”

Barbara Duncan began researching Cherokee clothing in 2005 to assist the Warriors of AniKituhwa represent this time period. “Tracking down this information and finding clues was like being a detective,” Duncan said. “But it is wonderful to see the Warriors, the Miss Cherokees, and other members of the Eastern Band bring this clothing to life, and wear it so beautifully.” Duncan is Education Director at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. She is the editor of the award-winning Living Stories of the Cherokee and co-author of the award-winning Cherokee Heritage Trails Guidebook, among other publications on Cherokee history and culture. Duncan has a Ph.D. in Folklore and Folklife. She also works on Cherokee language revitalization.

During the process of researching this book, Duncan also coordinated workshops at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian to re-introduce some of the traditions that had lapsed since the 1700s. Members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians have revitalized some of their lost traditions, and are now expert at making feather capes, wampum belts, twined skirts, finger weaving with beads, linen trade shirts, moccasins, porcupine quill work, and more. Workshops were funded by the North Carolina Arts Council, and publication of the book was funded by the Cherokee Preservation Foundation.

The exhibit “Emissaries of Peace: 1762 Cherokee & British Delegations” features Cherokee clothing, feather capes, beads, and other artifacts. It is currently on display at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and also available for travel. It opened in 2006.

During the eighteenth century, Cherokee leaders traveled to England, to other American Indian nations, and throughout the colonies to make agreements, sign treaties, make military alliances, and fight alongside leaders like George Washington in the French and Indian War. Their clothing shows the result of global trade and the impact of European fashion as the Cherokees used new materials and styles to create a unique appearance based on their own Cherokee aesthetic.

Individual chapters describe items of 18th century clothing including breechclouts, leggings, skirts, shirts, mantles (or matchcoats), feather capes, moccasins, belts-garters-straps-and pouches, and adornments. Each chapter ends with a section on how to make these items.

First and last chapters put the 18th century in the context of ancient and ongoing Cherokee traditions. In the first chapter, the origin of Cherokee cloth is traced to 7500 bc, along with descriptions of clothing in early times. The last chapter describes Cherokee clothing during the Trail of Tears, the 1800s, and the 1900s. Present day Cherokee clothing is described in the context of today’s ongoing revitalization efforts.
The book is lavishly illustrated with twenty-seven color and more than one hundred black and white illustrations. These include portraits and engravings from the eighteenth century, artifacts in museums, and photographs of contemporary Cherokee people wearing the clothing of their ancestors, as they carry on and revitalize their traditions in the modern world.

Books are on sale at the Museum Store, and can be ordered by phone at 828-497-3481 x 208, or online at Softcover retails for $24.99 and hardcover is $39.99. For wholesale orders contact Amber Treadway: For other information contact Barbara Duncan at

About Able Allen
Able studied political science and history at Warren Wilson College. He enjoys travel, dance, games, theater, blacksmithing and the great outdoors. Follow me @AbleLAllen

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