Pucker toe moccasins are the traditional style of footwear for Chickasaws and in the past would have been made from deer, bear or elk skin, with sinew thread. Today, the shoes are made using artificial sinew and artisans use a metal needle instead of bone. Ashley Wallace, a pucker toe moccasin artisan, explains and demonstrates how to make the footwear.
The process begins with a simple tracing that is then used to create a unique pattern to fit the wearer's foot. Using a variety of tools, materials and sewing techniques, the artisan stitches and pulls the leather to create the signature pucker toe style. After the moccasins are completed, some wearers can choose to either adorn their footwear or keep the pair undecorated. Before European contact, Chickasaws would have used shells for decoration but after trade routes were established, they began using glass beads, which are still used today.
Moccasins have been worn by Chickasaws for generations and carrying on the tradition is important to both Ashley and the Nation as a whole. Ashley was able to teach her own daughter how to create the traditional footwear, leaving Ashley feeling "proud ... that she could either show her brother, or show her friends ... and then she'd be able to carry it on to, one day, her kids."