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Yosemite American Native Indian clothing; Men’s Regalia

Discussion about Yosemite National Park history, including Native Americans, Euro-American pioneers and settlement, and establishment as a national park.

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Yosemite American Native Indian clothing; Men’s Regalia

Postby Yosemite_Indian » Sat Jul 16, 2011 7:20 pm

Yosemite American Native Indian clothing; Men’s Regalia for Ceremony


Paiute men of California’s Owens Valley, who have ties to Yosemite, wear ceremonial skirts of twisted eagle down and headdresses made of magpie feathers for a dance staged in 1932 for the World’s Fair. Shell necklaces and face and body paint were usually reserved for dances.

The earliest natives of Yosemite mainly wore animal skin breech cloth, leggings, and aprons on a daily basis. Depending on the local environment many times Paiutes wore clothes and moccasins made of cattail tule. Most Yosemite area women wore basket hats and everyone had rabbit or other type of animal skin robes for the cold days and nights.

There was a type of clothing the men wore on special occasions and ceremonies as pictured by Yosemite-Mono Lake Paiute chief Captain John;


Historical Yosemite – Mono Lake Paiute chief Captain John wearing ceremonial area regalia

Along the Sierra Nevada mountains and foothills Paiute men, along with the majority of the Yokut and Chumash, wore a unique style of clothing when doing ceremonies. See photo below;


Yokut medicine man wearing the style of men’s clothing worn by early Yosemite Indians.

Their headdresses were made of tufts of white feather fluff/down or small black shiny feathers. Coming out of the tuft were long protruding magpie or eagle feathers depending on the status of the man wearing the headdress. The long feathers would stick straight up out of the tuft, see photo below;


Photo of Chumash hunter and 1902 California Paiute headdress

In olden days chiefs wore eagle feathers while medicine people wore magpie feathers. The magpie bird was considered a magical bird to the Paiute people.

The men also wore skirts of long cords of twisted eagle feather down with black feathers at the end to give the skirt a vivid contrast. In later years men started to use white twined rabbit fur instead of white feather down, see photo below;


Modern day Sierra Nevada Paiutes wearing ceremonial dress like early Yosemite Captain John

The men also wore white clay pigment on their face and body for good luck. The clay was called “ee-bee” and was used as a trade item. In some cases the men wore white feather down, another sign of good luck as in the picture of Captain John;


1903 photo of Yosemite – Mono Lake Paiute chief Captain John showing his body covered with feather down

Men wore shell necklaces, shell earrings and pierced nose ornaments made also of shell.

There are Paiute people today living along the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada who still carry on the traditional style of men’s ceremonial style of dress that would have been seen in Yosemite before the first white man entered the valley.


Modern day Owen’s Valley Bishop Paiutes wearing traditional ceremonial dress at a hot springs
Chief Tenaya was the founder of the Paiute Colony of Ahwahnee
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