Monday, November 4, 2013

Native Warriors

The Mohawk (properly called the Kanien'kehá:ka), Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Seneca and Tuscarora in the East, and the tribes of Tecumseh's federation in the West, were heavily engaged throughout the War. Native warriors fought on both sides, but primarily for the British. They are essential figures to possess in order to game the Battle of Crysler's Farm, Queenston Heights, the Thames, and numerous smaller conflicts.

By 1812, aboriginal dress had incorporated a lot of European items, so figures from the French and Indian War are not quite right for the period. Crysler's Farm is a good example; during the winter, warriors were likely to be wearing wool coats or capots and stocking caps or head scarves rather than scalplocks and linen. Can you imagine being bare-chested in sub-freezing temperatures with nothing but a loincloth and leggings? (Can you imagine a gamer dressed like that? Now I've gone and lost my appetite!)

Knuckleduster has two packs of warriors; one dressed for summer, and one for winter, plus a pair of high-ranking leaders with large blankets and traditional gustoweh headdresses. Leggings and breechclouts are worn by all, but generally covered by a shirt or coat belted with a sash.

There are numerous excellent Native figures on the market, mostly of the "naked savage" variety which depict traditional summer dress, which is why I only make one figure in that idiom. The remainder of my figures make an attempt to show what they would have looked like in 1812.

Summer dress; only one "naked savage" in this group. Linen shirts and scalplock hairdress for summer. Bare heads were plucked, not shaved (sounds painful), and a small square patch of hair was left in the back of the crown, which was grown long and braided. A decorative "roach" was attached to the hair, composed of dyed porcupine quills, deer hair, and various feathers, creating a very personalized headdress. Mohaws did not have the "Mohawk" hair style we associate with them, and popularized in the movie, "Drums on the Mowhawk." Inspiration for that movie's hairdresser must have come from certain Plains Indian tribes, such as the Pawnee, who had bristling strips of hair on the top of their scalps. 

Cold weather dress; heavier shirts and coats are worn, as well as head scarves that cover their traditional hairstyles. Warpaint is very much in evidence, black and red being the most common colors.
It's difficult to do justice to all their wampum belts and other decorative fabrics. Sashes and belts were finely decorated, some with geometric designs and others with very sophisticated floral patterns woven into the cloth. Even loincloths (breechclouts) sported colorful stripes and geometric designs. As a result, they've been painted to give only an impression of these ornate designs.

 Scalplocks, hair roaches, and warpaint present a fierce appearance. 

For more information, take a look at Stuart Asquith's excellent book on War of 1812 Uniforms, as well as Renee Chartrand's book on the British and Canadian forces.

Forrest Harris