Leggings and Breechcloths

Chickasaw Culture Keepers

For thousands of years, Chickasaws have been wearing deerskin leggings and breechcloths to protect them from the elements. In this episode of Thrive: Traditions, cultural demonstrator Jason Eyachabbe explains the importance and history of these garments while making a pair of his own.

Jason began learning how to make traditional leggings from his uncle, a Chickasaw elder. "My uncle, he would say, 'It's going to take a little bit of time, so you’re going to get intimate with it.'" Jason's first pair of leggings took many hours to make, with just one leg taking a whole day of hand stitching. "It does take time to make leggings, but it's also ... a time to be patient ... to think back [to] our ancestors ... and the foundations they have built for us," Jason explains.

"Whenever I started this project, sewing my own leggings, I began to think about what it was like to live back in this time period," Jason says. When deerskin leggings were worn regularly, Chickasaws would make their own tanned deer hide and take sinew from the deer they used for food. Today, deer hide is commercially available and artificial sinew is used most often.

As Jason sews through the tough leather by hand, he thinks about his ancestors who, centuries ago, would have made the same garments in much the same way for their own children. Remembering Chickasaw ancestors and continuing ancient traditions is "showing respect to our ancestors," Jason says. "I would like to think that they are very, I would say, proud of us and how we’ve tried to carry on traditions in our modern-day world."