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Courting, Marriage, and Clothing

Grouse Creek Jack’s leather gloves, 1880s.
Grouse Creek Jack’s leather gloves, 1880s.

Mary Hutchens can remember young Jack Indian courting a young Indian woman. It was really a beautiful sight to see them as they were both dressed in wonderfully beaded suits of white doeskin. [1]

At this time, Shoshone marriages were arranged for nearly all. If a man wanted to marry a certain girl, he would send a gift to the girl’s parents of a horse or several horses, or skins of all kinds, or deer meat or other food supplies showing him to be a good provider. If the parents agreed, the marriage was arranged. This arrangement was not considered a purchase but rather was considered compensation for the loss of service to her parents. [2] Arrangements for the marriage of a chief probably had other significant procedures.

A Shoshone marriage ceremony was conducted by the spiritual leader. He always gave the couple rules to live by, among which would be the injunction to be true to their mate at all times. There were counseled to be chaste in thought and to always remember their wedding vows. Sometimes the spiritual leader would pull hair from the bride and groom and tie it together. The tied hair was then taken by a relative to a hiding place known only the relative – if later the couple wanted to divorce, they would first have to find the hair and untie it. [3]

A spiritual leader or the medicine man would pray and dedicate a new dwelling. He would normally pray and do a smudging ceremony before the poles were covered. Smudging consists of burning sage, sweetgrass or tobacco to cleanse and purify the surroundings. He would pray that the occupants would have a happy life together in the dwelling. He would pray that no evil would enter through the door opening, that the dwelling would always be open to the hungry, fatherless, and aged. [4]

As time went by Jack Indian had five or six wives and quite a lot of sons and daughters who were very regal looking; all dressed in beaded and fringed skin clothing. [5]

Shoshone clothing was made primarily from tanned animal skins. Sagebrush and juniper bark were also used. As many as seven hides from an antelope, three or four hides from a deer, and two large elk hides were required to make one dress. Dresses and suits were decorated with shells, claws, and teeth from various animals. Bones and porcupine quills were also used as decoration. Sinew from animals was used for thread. Sagebrush and juniper bark was used to make capes, blouses, and leg coverings. [6]

Jack Indian’s tribe was spotlessly clean. Many of them wore heavily embroidered leather suits with fringe. Mary has seen the Indian women rub the leather suits all over with a pumice stone until they were white and soft and clear again, as of course they couldn’t be cleaned in water. [7]

1850s Shoshone leather dress ornamented with sea shells from Lake Bonneville.
1850s Shoshone leather dress ornamented with sea shells from Lake Bonneville.


[1] - Autobiography of Mary Elizabeth Hutchens Sherner, Mary Elizabeth – Her Stories, dictated to her daughter Dorothy A. Sherner, manuscript, 1933 p. 84.

[2] - Darren Parry, The Bear River Massacre, Common Consent Press, 2019p.20, 21.

[3] - Ibid, p. 21.

[4] - Ibid p. 15,16.

[5] - Sherner, Mary Elizabeth- Her Stories, p. 83.

[6] - Parry, The Bear River Massacre, p. 19.

[7] - Sherner, Mary Elizabeth- Her Stories, p. 86. A pumice stone is formed when lava and water mix together.

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