Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name

Anthropology (Cultural Heritage and Applied Anthropology Option)

Department or School/College

Department of Anthropology

Committee Chair

Kelly Dixon


Moccasins, Museums, Niitsitapi, Women


University of Montana


This dissertation emphasizes how anthropologists can use museum collections as anthropological data banks (Sturtevant 1973) to uncover the unwritten histories of objects, people, and cultures. I show how museum collections are repositories for the untold stories of Native women’s economic histories and how objects embody women’s critical contributions to the economic, spiritual, and cultural survival of their communities throughout time. To reveal the complex, hidden labor processes involved in historical and contemporary moccasin-making, I draw on interviews with contemporary Niitsitapi moccasin-makers, as well as object-based analyses of 109 pairs of moccasins from five museum collections and numerous archival documents and photographs. Analyses revealed that most of the Niitsitapi moccasins in these five museum collections are outgrowths of production for tourist markets. Additionally, I show how moccasin production has historically been influenced by the colonial policies of the United States government and how moccasins’ stories are influenced by museum categorization tools.



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