Rethinking The Sauratown Dress, a Moment of Clarity

I love being wrong. Especially when I find out the truth and have a chance to straighten out the record and share that new found knowledge with others.

Something about the dress I was creating really began to bother me. It wasn't like the Sioux to change their clothing to that of others in their region. They were a clannish, tightly woven group separated from all of the tribes around them by language and belief.

It just wasn't like the Siouan Peoples to move into an area and adopt the clothing of the peoples around them, anymore than they would adopt their language and customs. It was well proven that they loved to trade with others, but they adhered to a strict set of beliefs that included their manner of dress.

The dress of the Tribes around them was a loose fitting large hide averaging two yards long by one yard deep that was wrapped around the body and tied at the shoulder, leaving the sides open, (except when tied at the waist), and often dropped off the shoulder to be worn as an apron revealing one, or both breasts and often the backside as well. This suited their lifestyle well and was probably their garment of choice for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

When it came to the Sioux and their style of dress they already had a garment in their past Canadian history that would suit just fine. While living in the Canadian wilderness they wore a one hide side fold dress that joined at the shoulders. At that time they had separate detachable sleeves and leggings, also a hooded coat. They employed a type of sewing used to hold these dresses together, careful, small, welted, whip stitched seams were the hallmark of the of Canadian Northeastern tribes because they needed to keep the cold wind out and provide a solid, stable outfit. In no other area of the Western Hemisphere do we find this type of sewing, especially in the South where clothing was casual and loosely knotted at the shoulder or cinched at the waist.

Their Women were also the very model of modest people from the North, who would perhaps be less likely to go bare breasted at any time, (as the one shoulder dress reqired), since it was not in their hereditary past, as would a Southern Tribal member to whom going naked was a hereditary way of life.

 In terms of Native American History, Clark Wissler, Author of the "Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History, Vol. XVll, Part ll 1915" made an extensive study of the evolution of the everyday wear of Pre Contact Aboriginal peoples of this continent. If you want to read this very important work you can download the PDF Here.

According to his studies, the Two Hide Sioux Plains dress came about once tribes moved from East, (where they practiced and agrarian lifestyle), to West and began hunting buffalo and living a Hunter/Gatherer style of life. Freed from agricultural chores and such duties as pot making and permanent home building to follow the abundant and easy to harvest, massive herds Buffalo that had recently overpopulated the Plains provided them with a relatively affluent lifestyle in which they had more time to make and prepare more decorative and flowing clothing, ergo the Great Plains Two Hide Dress.
I had always assumed, (as have many before me), that this migration was from the Hudson Bay area to the Northern Plains when evidence is now mounting that the Siouan Peoples first moved into the Eastern States presently called North and South Carolina during the Woodlands period and THEN migrated onto the Great Plains.

When they moved to the Sultry weathered South they simply removed the accessories they didn't need and had the perfect warm weather dress. Here are two exquisite examples. I want to point out that the text in describing the construction in the first dress agrees with my theory. Please feel free to click on the pictures to magnify them so you can read them easier. They are both post contact, but they reflect a dress that has been in existence for more than 500 years.

How could I prove that this design was the Sauratown Woman's Dress? One dress I had seen in museum collections kept popping into my mind. I searched my archives and came up with the dress below.

This dress was collected from the Sioux in the early 1800's. If one looks very closely at the bead work on the front one can see something in this Yanktown garment that leads us directly to the Sauratown peoples.

The shells decorating the top edge are Marginella Prunum Apicinum, or the Common Atlantic Marginella.

They are miss identified as being Cowrie, which is easy enough to do if you aren't a shell collector, but closer examination shows them to be a shell in common use and normally found in burials in the Carolina's during the Dan River, Woodland and the Early and Late Saratown eras and not a shell used by Plains Women on their Two Hide dresses.

Shells from Sauratown Mounds
What were these shells from the Florida Estuaries doing on a dress in Yankton, South Dakota in the early 1800's?

Trade? Unlikely. The Plains Sioux used many types of shell in their garments pre contact, mostly dentalium. In all the dresses I have examined, I have never seen this particular shell used on a single Plains Sioux garment, especially not the Two Hide Plains Dress.
The Plains Sioux did make use of the European imported money cowrie Post Contact in place of Elk teeth sometimes, but cowrie used Post Contact are an entirely different family than the marginella which was used for thousands of years before contact. I have never seen marginella used on a Sioux garment until this one.

Then there were the glass pound beads. Most Plains Sioux used the powder, or sky blue type illustrated in the first side fold dress shown above in the first pictures. Yet the side fold dresses shown here have a deeper periwinkle blue more popular with the South Eastern Tribes and included in their mound burials.

Also, the beaded patterns themselves slightly differ from those of the Plains Sioux but have enough of a similarity to firmly place them within tribal bounds.
Deep Blue Beads found in Sauratown Mounds

Is this dress the missing link to what Sauratown Women wore? It could be. You must remember that generally a closed society that refuses to change its language or customs even when the relocated would also retain the rule of only marrying people within their own tribal lines.

This meant that Sauratown brides were exchanged with the Plains Sioux to diversify the blood line without leaving the tribal bounds. Many tribes practiced this and they were very careful to prevent inbreeding by finding other related tribes and traveling to marry off their young people to each other to prevent this through the "Totem" system.

This dress could actually be a Sauratown exchange bride dress. How else would it turn up on the Plains? Local Women weren't interested in wearing a garment such as this, they had already moved onto the Two Hide Plains Dress, while their Southern Siouan Cousins were more strict in their adherence to tribal custom, (not to mention language), and retained the use of a garment that had served them well for over 500 years.

Again, I feel the Sioux Peoples migrated originally from the Eastern shores of Canada, then to the Sauratown area, then to disperse onto the plains. I stand by this assertion because the original style and manner of creating their clothes reflects those found in the colder Northern regions of the country and show a close assembly affinity to Tribal clothing designs found east of Hudson's Bay, such as the Cree, Ojibway and MicMac. I am not alone in this assertion, as the text in the first photo illustrates.

That the Saura Peoples spoke an ancient form of the Siouan language older than the language used by the then current Plains Sioux, (at time of European Contact), leaves us tending to think they moved to the Sara area and then dispersed to the Plains.

Recent DNA studies seem to bear a Canadian Ice Age origin out, as well as the oral history of the Siouan Peoples, who even while living in the Woodlands Sauratown Phase speak of coming originally from the East, but obviously not from the Carolinas area since they were in residence there at the time of their telling their origination story. Where else could this be and how much further East can you get on this continent than North Eastern Canada?

The Sioux also tell a story of how Elders warned the young people of the tribe against leaving their cornfields to follow the buffalo. We know they did not grow corn in Canada, but lived a hunter/gatherer lifestyle. So this places them in Sauratown and introduced to corn growing before they left for the plains.

Another example of Sioux Dress
I am not the first to suggest that the Sioux originated in Eastern Canada at the time of the great ice age 10,000 years ago and then disseminated to other areas of the country over the next ten thousand years. They were a hardy and adaptable people, nomadic in some cases, agrarian in others, but their original style of assembling clothing speaks to a much colder climate where good tight, welted seams were necessary, as opposed to the South Eastern Tribes to whom clothing was entirely optional and casually constructed at most times.

I think enough evidence exists at the very least to place the Siouan Peoples of Sauratown in the side fold dress. It was an original Sioux Dress, (as these examples clearly point out), and more suitable to the climate than the two hide plains dress.

An excerpt from "The American Anthropologist" Volume 7, Issue 3 reads:

And I quote this: These garments were fastened at the shoulders with leather. they were thrown over one or both shoulders and brought usually under one arm. 
This article talks about all the tribes of the Carolina's area and not just the Sauratown people. I feel that since all the tribes around them wore a one shoulder garment that is documented, it leaves the Siouan people wearing the dress attached at Both Shoulders.

Time will bear out my conclusions to be either faulty or truth, but somehow I feel closer to reality placing the Sauratown Woman in this garment than any other.

Now to Create it Sauratown Pre Contact. Coming soon to a Blog near you!

Adding Gussets, Welts and Sewing Side Seams

Gusset eased into place Right side o
I cut two triangular gussets from a separate piece of leather as well as four rectangular strips of leather 4" wide to serve as my fringe welts.

The most important part of placing the gusset is to get the bottom where you want it then ease it in up the dress until it sits flush and unwrinkled.

Then you turn the dress inside out and place right sides of the gusset and body together with pins on both sides of the dress, checking to see that the dress has not become distorted before placing the welts between the seams and re pinning.

Then you carefully unpin one pin at a time and wedge the "Welts to be fringed" between the gusset and side seam facing each welt right side to right side with the dress body proper. So your layers are, Gusset edge, welt edge, dress side edge, in that order.

 I am using the instructions for this tutorial from a previous article I made for making my Two Hide Elk Dress, instead of creating a confusing link, I simply re posted the information used to make the previous garment. (If you get a bit confused, click on this link here and review the original article).

Gusset pinned in place right side out
The Two Hide Dress was also a Siouan Garment and I feel the assembly would have been the same, as they were remarkable and cleaver seamstresses who would have plied their exceptional talents in the East, as well as the Great Plains.
You want to make sure your welts are symmetrical from side to side, (although you can adjust this late by trimming).

Now step back and check to make sure your dress is square and true, that one side flares and drapes as nicely as the other before sewing. Measure from the floor to the bottom of your gusset, nothing is worse than having your gussets knock the entire shape of the dress off.

Inside out, gusset and welts pinned in place
Here are the seams properly faced and pinned with the dress inside out and the welts extending into the right side of the dress on the inside, (you can't see them, but they are there).
This is a good time to make a sharp critical inspection of the dress and placement of the welts by peaking under the dress and making sure they are matched and hanging straight, also I make sure the welts are right side facing right side of the dress for a "finished" look. (You can turn the dress right side out to check this, but it can upset your pinning, I do it by crawling up under the dress on the dress form and looking around, or gently turning up the edge of the skirt).

How the gusset meets at the top
Here I show the top of the gusset where the two sides of the gusset meet, showing three layers on each side of the gusset, namely, left side of gusset, welt sandwiched in between and right side of gusset.

The next picture shows me sewing a whip stitch with real sinew close to the raw edge just far enough in to get a firm bite of each layer...
Here I am whip stitching the left side of gusset

Gusset sewn and pulled flat
Here is the left side of the gusset sewn, then pulled flat. It's barley visible on the left, the raw seam still pinned and ready to sew on the right. This way of doing seams makes a flush seam allowance on the inside of the dress and a flat rounded look to the seam on the outside of the dress, the welt either being trimmed close to being invisible, or fringed. this is a strong, stable seam that will last several lifetimes without shifting of coming loose and was used on every garment I personally examined. there may be exceptions to this, but I haven't seen it yet.

The side seams are sewn by starting at the top of the dress at the armpit area on both the left and right after cutting the left sleeve away from the body of the dress. The left side armpit is cut by extending the sleeve out and cutting flush up the pinned side seam to the area of the armpit, stopping at six inches below the pit or just at where the top of the girdle, (belt), will ride. Sew down the side using the whip stitch shown, leaving the fold over seam area at the  right armpit open for now, as well as the bottom of the sleeve on the left to be finished after the rest of the garment is assembled.

Here is the dress turned right side out and rehung on the form. You can see the fringe welts on either side that will be cut later.

I have also whip stitched a additional swath of leather to the sleeve to make it Siouan full length and to fill in where the leather was lacking on the sleeve end.

The Shoulder seam is sewn using the welt seam method starting at the neckline and sewing down the top of the arm seam.

 I then added my welts between the layers..and whip stitched all together, then turned, flattened the seam and trimmed the welt to be flush.

The leather across the top is very thick and spongy, very hard to sew easily. This also creates a stiff yoke that adds structure to the dress line itself, but is a total pain to sew and forces you to sew a thicker seam to penetrate to the stable leather.

This will be important once beads and or shell is added, the shoulders must support a great deal of weight without shifting or pulling, but makes the shoulder seam heavy and bulky. Trimming the welt close helps to ease this bulk as well as using an equally thick and spongy welt.

I always match my welt thickness to the leather on the seams, this creates a uniformity of tension and weight that is noticeable. You must always be certain to have your seams very straight, or pucker and sway will translate into a ghastly bulge or swoop when done.

I feel this garment is a good compromise between the Eastern one shoulder dress and what we have documented about the Sioux way of assembling garments. The dress will be longer than Eastern styles and feature a full sleeve on the left reflecting a Matron Elders way of dressing and obviously Fall or Winter Wear. It is being assembled using the Plains Sioux way of finishing seams.

One must also keep in mind with this garment that it is being constructed under the direction of the person who will be wearing it, so it has elements that are slightly different than what I would consider the average, or optimal representation of garments this period.

I have created, in the meantime, a garment that more closely resembles the shape and form of average daily wear of this period and will post this dress and info in my next post. I am also making Sheila a lighter, shorter version of this same dress that I will be showcasing later on.

I would also like to say at this point that the use of the terms "Siouan" and "Sioux" are terms used by researchers from the time of first studies in the early 1800's. I am well aware that these are not the genuine names of the people represented, but names in common use by researchers at the time. Proper names for tribes and peoples are out there, but I retain the use of these archaic terms to make researching for others easier. I in no way intend to offend any peoples by my use of these terms.

One Shoulder Dress a Proper Hanging and Trial Fit

To start this project out right, the hides are first hung, (head down as Siouan tradition dictates), on the form as you would for a two hide dress. This means you do not just hang one shoulder and sling under the arm and attach. This would cause the hides to hang crooked once they are on the person who is going to wear it. (I see this mistake made with this type of garment constantly!) The hides are folded over about four inches at the shoulder so the hides hang nicely and provide a stabilization by doubling the thickness at the shoulder, neckline area.

We left the hides full length at this time, trimming just so it did not drag on the ground, (having adjusted the form to the actual height of the wearer). This is done so that length can be determined when the dress if done and fully fitted.

Hang the hide with both shoulders attached and let hang overnight to see if they are hanging straight, with no unsightly bulges or sways.

Then pin sides by smoothing the hide down and across the form and securing to the form at the dividing line. (Pinning to the form first keeps the front hide from pulling the back hide and vice-versa, preventing the garment from twisting on the form).

Then you can pin sides to each other, (keeping the form pins in place in case you have to adjust the flow of the hides later), up to about six inches under the under arm, or where you want the top of the bust line to fall. (this dress was worn with the breast exposed originally, but modern times dictate we cover).

This dress should fit the form quite tightly, just enough to be able to slide it off without removing pins. By doing so, you create a sort of fit that helps support the bust without undergarments. (One can try to wear a type of bra or girdle underneath, but it will be difficult and will most likely show).

Then carefully unpin the top right shoulder and let it fall down as in the picture on the right.

The dress will now be true and square at the hem when worn instead of swaying off to the side as it would if you did not secure the garment by pinning the sides before you drop the shoulder.
After this you can remove the pins tuck in the form, keeping the seam down the dividing line of the form, (the median). Pin very securely, especially at the armpit and shoulder, you are about to slide the dress of the form for a trial fit.

Summon the future wearer of the garment and have them wear a fitting, thin cover-up that does not change or bind their natural shape. if they will not be wearing a bra, have them remove it at this time.

Before trying on, secure the shoulder and armpit with industrial strength safety pins. After the garment has been slipped on, use a second set to safety pins to readjust the fit around the bust so nothing is revealed or spilling out, leaving the original safety pins in place so you have a median starting point as you adjust.

Have your subject go outside and wander around, walking, bending and lifting the arms as you observe how the garment moves, making note of corrections where the dress is binding or bulging.

First and foremost, this is supposed to be a comfortable garment, it should not pinch or twist at any point. It should flow from top to bottom smoothly and gracefully.

The wearer should feel at ease and comfortable, as this photo shows, Sheila is really enjoying her trial fit, even though it is bristling with pins!
This photo shows a potential problem, the hides are thinner at the bottom being hung head down, so we will have to place a gusset on the side to allow the skirt to flow without binding, this is easily accomplished as welts to be cut into fringe will be inserted in the seam anyway and the gusset can be added at this time.

If we were to leave the sides open, as some younger women did, it would not be an issue, but our garment must cover, as it will be worn in teaching situations.

Also, this garment must reflect Siouan ways of assemblage, which was a longer, more flowing skirt and a gusset would allow more freedom of movement, as was often done by Siouan Peoples.
Have your model sit and move around in a chair. Again, this insures a comfortable fit and shows potential bulges and sways that will impact the overall look.

Remember, our theory from the beginning, (and has been borne out through research), was that women did not just throw a garment on the ground, cut it and sew up the sides, (as has been suggested by otherwise well researched literature), clothes were made to fit the potential wearer by fitting the garment on the actual person to whom it would belong.

We use a dress form, but in actuality women stood as models and had the garment tediously fitted to them. This is a fact that I have seen in museum garments.
So far so good as far as this dress goes, doing a proper setup on the form and carefully fitting the garment properly has paid off in a good fit, which will save much agony and regret further down the road.

Also seeing your subject happy and comfortable in her future dress is the greatest reward a seamstress can have!

Resizing my C Dress Form for a New Project

Back showing tape job
Have I mentioned that I love my size C Dress Form? Probably too many times....but none the less, I love my  Size C Dress Form!

Recently, my friend Sheila B. and I decided to put our research into action and create a One Shoulder Elk Hide Dress of the Eastern Woodlands type.

Since I am the seamstress and she is the research maven, I decided that it was high time she had a dress to wear for all of her tireless work.

Sheila is a bit robust than I am and had no desire to stand for several hours while I built the dress to fit her so we turned to my dress form and with just the loosening of a few screws and some well placed padding we made her a twin sister!

Now, Sheilas measurements are her secret and will remain so since I couldn't find my tape measure, (although I have three), we just used a stretch of bias tape to mark her size and then ran over and duplicated it on the form.

We used duct tape to fill the gaps but first placed folded paper towels between the tape and form to prevent tape sticky build up and round out the gaps to a firmer, more natural pinning surface.

Any remaining awkward gaps were taken care of with painters masking tape.

Sheila, meet Sheila...
We then topped it off with a large T shirt to keep the dress from snagging on the tape as we pulled it off and on various times for live fittings. We pinned the T shirt around the bottom edge of the form being careful to push the pin heads flush to the dress form surface to prevent it also from snagging.

You could not get a modern, cheap dress form to go from my size to Sheila's without some major body distortion, I guess you need a '50's dress model for a '50's classic Bod!

Also, these hides I'm hanging weigh about ten pounds or more per hide, lets see those cheap new mannequins hold that up with style! I'm sure it would wilt like last weeks cut daisies!

Here I am in one of those rare, "lets get a picture of you" moments when someone grabs my camera and makes a spectacle out of me. I include it just so you can see how happy I am when I'm hanging hide on my form!

Your Resident Seamstress in action....

Sauratown One Shoulder Elk Hide Dress Project

Sheila in her soon to be completed Sauratown Dress
Meet Sheila B., my Amateur Archaeological and Anthropological Sleuth Partner for several years researching what Native Women Actually Wore Pre Contact.

We met at an Historic Event over five years ago and she began picking my brain about the "Woman Named Sara Project"  for the N.C. Office of State Archaeology's Sauratown Woman Project That recently recreated a Native American Woman named "Sara".

It seems that several very impressively educated people gathered and put out their best effort in recreating what was found in a gravesite on the Lower Saura Town site in North Carolina.

The primary information for this re creation are contained in a book authored by the artist who rendered the sketches for the garments, one Laura Baum who titled her article aptly, "The Sauratown Woman". Published in the Tar Heel Junior Historian (NoCar F 251 T3x), Spring 1994, Vol. 33 Issue 2, p5-10, por, il.

I quote THIS reference matter, which seems quite accurate:  

Saura Town Woman
This seventeenth-century Native American woman was a member of the Saura tribe, who lived along the banks of the Dan River in Piedmont North Carolina and Virginia. The Sauratown Woman was forensically reconstructed from archaeological remains found at the village of Upper Sauratown in present-day Stokes County, North Carolina. Anthropological analysis indicated that the Sauratown Woman was approximately 18 to 21 years old, stood five feet 2 and a half inches tall, and weighed approximately 120 pounds. Historical and scientific research indicated a costume comprised of a hood, dress, and possibly moccasins, made of brain-tanned deerskin, sewn with sinew, and embellished with multicolored glass trade beads, wampum, and brass hawk bells, triangles, cones and beads. Burial jewelry included two columella shell bead necklaces, one with a brass gorget, and a columellashell bead bracelet. Based on the nature and abundance of artifacts buried with the Sauratown Woman, researchers concluded that she occupied a position of high status within her matrilineal society.

Sheila made a pilgrimage to the museum in question and was awed by what she found, but had questions regarding the regional accuracy of the admittedly lovely garment she found. What bothered Sheila about the re creation is that it didn't seem to match the representations we currently have about the Natives of the South East.

Presumably they spoke an ancient dialect of the Siouan language, but the reference to the Great Plains Tribe ends there. In most cases the Siouan connection is one that predates the Plains Sioux as we know them, forensic examination points to the modern Sioux haven arisen from the Saura and not the other way around. Nothing in the burial mounds, grave sites or village structure in any way resembles that of their distant plains cousins.

They had the tools, mannerisms, and customs that reflect those currently living around them, (bark covered dome homes, large agricultural parcels, permanent dwellings, palisade fences, pottery and weaving), as opposed to the later descended Plains Sioux, (characterized by their mobility, teepees, hunter/gathering lifestyle).

Plains Sioux legend has it that they at one time lived in a static condition in the East, but when their numbers increased during the Woodland Period, they split with the majority of their members moving towards the West to become the Plains People of Legend and Yore. Perhaps this is how things happened, it fits their own oral history and is somewhat accepted by historians at this time. It is the "Chicken or the Egg" theory at best at this time.

The dress created by the group at the museum was of an obvious Later Great Plains type, complete with fold over yoke and tail representation. This does not fit with what we know about Early Southeastern Tribes Women, who most likely wore one shoulder below knee length dresses of deer hide.

Even after contact, Eastern Siouan Women are depicted to retain the one shoulder garment and probably never adopted the Plains style dress of the West, (which, it is theorized, came about from contact with Far Western Tribes such as the Arikara and Blackfeet).

We found that the headdress was especially puzzling in that it does not resemble any headdress we had ever seen on any Native Peoples. Either these folks had found a completely new style of headdress, or it was, at best, somewhat lacking in accuracy in what would have been worn. It neither fits the aforementioned Plains Sioux, Eastern Siouan nor other peoples.

Click on the photo for a better view.
First we gained pictures of one of the the burials in question, this told us a few things were already wrong about the headdress created. The crown bead patterns do not match and the beads to not drape the same way as seen in the grave pictures.

Most likely, when one looks at headdresses of this kind, it was made of a single fawn hide, deer head to forehead and back legs draping down the back. The beads are then sewn tightly to the brow band and loosely strung around the sides of the head and down over the shoulders.

Also, several grave contents clearly spell out that the woman in question was also wearing a leather girdle of some size that was elaborately beaded with small beads, marginella shells, and brass triangular drops.

Girdle of Dona Meledez
Spanish explorers and others note in all their descriptions that Native Women of the South East, when fully dressed, wore just such girdles, (belt), and some examples are shown in paintings such a Dona Maria Melendez shown on the right. 

This drawing probably approximates most closely what was worn by the Saura Town Woman in general at the time she was laid to rest.

It may have been an honest mistake on their part since this grave was looted before they got to it, but several other burials in the area of women contain examples of such leather girdles, (or belts).

I theorize they chose, instead, to use the beads found in the pelvic area as a band of beads on the dress itself, instead of the Girdle, (belt) more commonly in use at this time.

After all this research and documenting over five years, Sheila and I decided to re create the Sauratown Woman as we envisioned her.

We then started to comb the archives for what was represented to have been seen by early explorers on meeting Southeastern Tribes.

An excerpt from "The American Anthropologist" reads:

Granted, these are New England Natives, but you begin to see a pattern here that does not in any way resemble Plains Tribes.

The fact that only one arm needed to be covered by fur or hide allowed us the thought that in most cases, the left arm was covered by the hide fold over at the shoulder area, especially in Powhatan Elders as shown in the drawing below
Powhatan Natives One Shouldered Elder Dress

The Powhatan People were the Sauratown's closest relatives to the North and their dress reflects the style that predominated from Florida to the Northeastern Coast, that of the one shoulder hide dress.

Again, we did some more looking and found ample examples of Eastern and Southeastern dress at time of contact. They all show one shoulder dress on both men and women.

Huskanaw Tribe Elder Priest in mantel cape
The depicted use of a shawl to drape the exposed shoulder and accompanied text found here:

 The habit of the Indian priest is a cloak made in the form of a woman's petticoat; but instead of tying it about their middle, they fasten the gatherings about their neck and tie it upon the right shoulder, always keeping one arm out to use upon occasion. This cloak hangs even at the bottom, but reaches no lower than the middle of the thigh; but what is most particular in it is, that it is constantly made of a skin dressed soft, with the pelt or for on the outside, and reversed; insomuch, that when the cloak has been a little worn the hair falls down in flakes, and looks very shagged and frightful.

Specifically to get information on the Saura People themselves, several documents were studied, the following being most helpful, I quote from THIS SOURCE:

THE SAURA (SUALA, SARA, SAWRO, SARRAW, CHERAW) INDIAN NATION The Saura Indians lived in villages on the Dan River and its tributaries, the Smith and Mayo Rivers, from around A.D. 1450 to 1710. They were preceded in the area by the Dan River Culture, A.D. 1000 to 1450. Their neighbors were the Monacan and the Tutelo in the north. To the east were the Sapony and the Occoneechee. The tribes to the south were the Eno, the Saxapahaw, the Keyauwee, and the Catawba. Their western neighbors were the Cherokee and the Shawnee. For protection, a palisade usually surrounded the Saura towns. Two types of circular houses were built. One type of house was built with wall posts and covered with wattle and daub (plaster). A thatched domed-shaped roof was added. Circular bark houses were also constructed. These were framed out of hickory, cedar, or pine and covered with elm, chestnut, or cedar bark. The houses had a diameter of about 25 feet. Split river cane was used to make mats and baskets. The smooth, sand tempered, burnished pottery that was made by the Saura Indians is identical to the vessels being made today by the Catawba Indians of South Carolina. This is called Oldtown Pottery. Hunting and fishing, the gathering of roots, acorns, nuts, and berries, and farming provided for an ample food supply. The Saura Indians planted corn, beans, squash (the three sisters), gourds, and sunflowers. By the 1600’s, the Indians were also growing peaches and watermelons with the seeds being obtained from the Spanish or English traders. Food was often placed in storage pits for safe keeping. At death, the Saura Indians were buried near their houses. Most burials were oriented towards the rising sun in the east and contained grave goods. Large earthen ovens located at the burial sites would suggest that a death feast was given for departed loved ones.

This helped us make a few decisions. The Eastern Siouan People lived as other Eastern Tribes around them and therefore wore the type of clothing most conducive to their area's lifestyle. We decided on a Pre Contact type garment, since we had come across a wealth of information regarding what materials and decorations were used and would more accurately represent what aboriginal peoples wore without European influence.

We chose  deer hide for our foundation and shells, bones and copper for decoration. Our dress will be for a Tribal Matron Elder and will include full left sleeve, matching shoulder cape for the right, leather girdle and matching headdress shell beaded after the fashion of the pattern shown in the burial photo above. Footwear will consist of either a fiber woven shoe, Eastern dress moccasin or barefoot, as shown in depictions. We can find absolutely no evidence of Eastern Women wearing leggings, so they will not be made.

All stages of creation will be shown through this site and we welcome any information that anyone may have to contribute to help us in our journey.

We in no way want to discredit or downplay the important research and depiction of the Sauratown Woman displayed by the people involved in the N.C. Office of State Archaeology's Sauratown Woman Project, but simply wish to add our voice in the discussion in hopes of finding another version as to what was actually worn.

Wampanoag Dress
If not for the Sauratown Project research, Sheila and I never would have made our own journey and we will be ever grateful for them bringing this subject to light to teach generations in the future what our past involved. We do not feel it is a matter of right or wrong, we just want to creatively express our opinion, as the Sauratown Project people have. we hope we all get something new out of it for everyone!

There are no actual surviving garments on which we can place our hopes so we must do the best we can and hopefully open up a beneficial conversation that leads us even further upon our research trail.

The closest modern representations of Eastern Women's Garments are the Wampanoag Natives Dress worn by The Plimouth Plantation Wampamoag Village.

The following linked articles will show what we re created and what conclusions we made on our five year journey of discovery.I am currently working on them and will update the links as I complete them.
Thanks for your patience, it took thousands of years to make history, so it will take a while to document it also!

Initial draping of headdress
Initial Draping of Deer Hide


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