on-line book icon

table of contents

Field Division of Education
Ethnology of Rocky Mountain National Park: The Ute and Arapaho
NPS logo

MATERIAL CULTURE: Dress and Ornament


The dress of Arapaho men consisted of a shirt, leggings reaching from the ankles to the hips, breech-cloth, moccasins, and a blanket of buffalo skin. The hair was braided or tied together in front of the ears, or tied in masses over the ears with a scalp lock in the middle of the back of the heed. Very old men did not comb their hair but kept it gathered in a bunch over the forehead.

Women wore an open-sleeved dress not reaching the ankles, moccasins to which leggings were attached reaching to the knee, and a blanket. The skin blankets of both men and women were either painted or embroidered. The women in old days wore the hair loose with paint upon it. Old women wore their hair loose and generally tangled. The face was customarily painted. Both men and women painted in connection with any religious or ceremonial action except in the case of mourning, when the face was never painted.

(Kroeber, 1902, 27-28; for Cheyenne dress see Grinnell, 1923, 217-224, which gives much more complete details).

The most important decoration was that undertaken by woman in embroidering buffalo robes with porcupine quills. Women who did this had accomplished an act almost on a par with the warrior who counted coup. Such robes were always given away, usually to some relative. Among the Cheyenne, women who had quilled a robe by themselves became members of a special woman's society with ceremonies and regalia. (Kroeber, 1902, 29, et seq.; Grinnell, 1923, 159, et seq.).


The man's dress among the Ute in fairly early times is described as elkhide moccasins, deer-skin leggings, a cloth gee-string, a shirt, and Navaho blankets. The last is probably historic in its dating. Rabbitskin, elk, and deerskin blankets were worn. They were made by the women. They also had painted elkskin robes (illustration by Hrdlicka), but whether these were worn or used for ceremonial purposes is not stated. Presumably buffalo robes were also used, since the animals were hunted. There is no data on women's dress, but it seems that fringed buckskin garments were common for both men and women. The collection of Paiute photographs in the possession of Dellenbaugh shows both men and women dressed in such garments, which were brought by Powell from the Ute country and used to dress the Paiute subjects before photographing them.

Ute women formerly wore the hair parted in the middle but not braided. Men only braided the hair, apparently in two braids hanging behind the ears. Plucking of the eyebrows was practiced by at least some of the Ute, particularly by the men, although some women did this.

The Ute moccasin was a hard-soled type such as was worn on the Plains.

(Lowie, 1924a, 216-218; Hrdlicka, plate 28, Reed, 1897, 40; Dellenbaugh photograph collection).

Previous Next

top of page

History  |   Links to the Past  |   National Park Service  |   Search  |   Contact

Last Modified: Sat, Feb 9 2002 10:00:00 am PDT

ParkNet Home