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Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site of Canada

Moccasin Bead Pattern

Moccasin bead pattern featuring blue, red, and white glass beads adhered to the mud in which it was found, viewed from the top. This moccasin bead pattern, an archeological artefact, was discovered beneath the Depot building at York Factory.
© Parks Canada
19th century
Glass, soil matrix
Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site (Originally from York Factory)
PRO.351.84

Location: Visitor Centre Exhibit

This archaeological artefact features the remains of a moccasin vamp that was found at York Factory beneath the Depot building. Originally, as a piece of leather with ornate glass beadwork, this vamp, along with a matching vamp for the other foot, would have been sewn on the top of the moccasin. The beaded pattern in blue, white, and red, provides an example of the craftsmanship and design that was often worked into traditional First Nations clothing. Moccasins, often made of deerskin, protected the feet of wearers while also allowing for quiet movement and flexibility due to their soft soles. This type of footwear, originally worn by the First Nations peoples, was also adopted by hunters and fur traders of European and Métis descent in the Red River Settlement.

This object is a remarkable find because it is unusual to uncover artefacts made of organic materials with beaded patterns still intact. In order to preserve the artefact and maintain the beadwork for the future, Parks Canada conservators used a solution of white carpenter’s glue to secure the beads to remnants of the mud in which it was found. A sample of the earth recovered along with the artefact was also carefully sealed and shipped out for lab analysis.