Mountain Men and Life in the Rocky

Subject Guide


Mountain West

Malachite’s Big Hole

Thoughts on Indian/White Styles of Clothing-1851:

Mr. Denig, Chief Factor of Fort Union in 1851, held the following opinions regarding white versus Indian styles of clothing as reported by Rudolph Friederich Kurz in his journal:

"He said today that he never wears anything at all that belongs distinctly to Indian dress, for the reason that Indians take pride in procuring for themselves clothes according to our mode and have an ambition to appear dressed as white men, because they regard our garments more fashionable and expensive.  A white person in Indian costume inspires no especial respect among the tribes; on the contrary, he rather lowers himself in their estimation. Furthermore, if he is a white man in the Indian garb of a different tribe he runs far more risk of being killed, because he may not be recognized in that disguise as a pale face."

Also, the employees of the fort, especially the clerks and traders, were expected to function as living displays of the merchandise for sale in the trade room..

Kurz goes on to state that buckskin clothes are more serviceable for life in the bush and on the prairie and serve as better protection against sun and mosquitoes when one is on horseback.  

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