Antique Native American Indian Snowshoes - Bearpaw

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Antique Native American (First Nation) Indian Snowshoes
c. 1870-1920, 19th-20th century
Wood, Babiche, Metal (nails)
26.25"l x 24"w x 1"h
© Vintage Winter

A great set of native American Indian Snowshoes. They are intricately woven with caribou hide.  Bearpaw snowshoes like these are difficult to find.  The decorative pom poms have just about worn completely off. 

It is thought that the use of decorative pom poms originated for both spiritual and hunting tactics. The hunter would carefully dress the snowshoes with pom poms made from fur of the primarily hunted species. So if they mainly hunted caribou, the pom poms were typically made from caribou fur. Simple logic in hopes to deter the human smell if the hunter became up wind. On the spiritual side, some aboriginal hunters believed they needed to please the animal spirits to have a successful hunt. To do this they would decorate their snowshoes with pom poms, paint and geometric designs woven directly into the hide lacing.

Tribal tradition also played a role in the color of pom poms with different colors referring to differing tribes or regions. For instance Cree Indian snowshoes are primarily red in color.

Lastly fur tuffts or pom poms were sometimes vital during the weaving process. Some designs looped babiche/raw hide through the inner frame hole to the outside pulling the pom pom back in the loop wedging it in place while anchoring the raw hide.
Native American woman weaving snowshoes.
Native American woman weaving snowshoes


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