Bob Scriver and the Indians (Photo Diary)

Bob Scriver (1914-1999) is among the West’s greatest sculptors. He was born on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana. His forte was American Indians. As a scholar of Blackfoot Indian culture and history, he is known for his ability to capture historically accurate detail in his sculptures. He was given the Blackfoot name Sik-Poke-Sah-Ma-Pee.  

Scriver’s biography in the Fine Art Dealers Association states:

An accomplished musician, Scriver earned his master’s degree in music, taught in Montana public schools, and played professionally in big bands before taking up taxidermy, which would assist him in his ultimate profession, sculpture. A student and scholar of Native American artifacts, Scriver is best remembered for creating a series of sculptures that chronicled the history of the Blackfeet Tribe, as well as a series devoted to rodeo subjects.

Scriver operated the Museum of Montana Wildlife and the Hall of Bronze in Browning on the Blackfeet Reservation. After his death in 1999, these two collections were given to the Montana Historical Society.

The Scriver family collection of Blackfoot artifacts was sold to the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton, Alberta. This collection included some ceremonial Blackfoot bundles and this upset many of the tribal elders. Alberta returned the sacred objects to the Canadian Blackfoot.

Shown below are some of the Scriver sculptures which are on display at the Old Fort Benton in Fort Benton, Montana.

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The Blackfoot Beaver Dance is shown above.  According to the display:

“The beaver bundle was the largest and oldest sacred bundle of the Blackfoot and is uniquely theirs. For years beaver holy men added parts and songs from other bundles. As the ritual grew, there were more and more participants. The sacred rites and songs multiplied to such an extent that the owner and his wife needed help with the ceremony. The part of the bundle opening ceremony depicted here is the Dance of the Beaver done by the wives of the Beaver Men. Holding beaver sticks in their mouths and carrying a stuffed beaver skin, they imitate a beaver swimming in and out of the lodge to the beat and songs of the rattles. Today there are too few beaver people to perform the complete ceremony.”

Karl Bodmer and the Indians

In 1832 Prince Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied, with young Swiss draftsman Karl Bodmer and hunter-taxidermist David Dreidoppel, embarked on a scientific expedition to study the flora, fauna, and native peoples of western North America. In 1833, they left St. Louis on the steamboat Yellow Stone owned by the American Fur Company and began their journey up the Missouri River. At Fort Pierre in what is now South Dakota, they changed to the steamboat Assiniboine which took them to Fort Union on the Montana-North Dakota border. From here they went by keelboat (a human-powered craft) to Fort McKenzie.  

Prince Maximillian was fascinated by Native American culture and they spent a month in the area. At Fort McKenzie, Maximilian met Bear Chief, a Blackfoot chief, who was introduced to him as a man who had never traded with Hudson’s Bay Company. Maximilian writes of the Blackfoot:

“They are always dangerous to white men who are hunting singly in the mountains, especially to beaver hunters, and kill them whenever they fall into their hands; hence the armed troops of the traders keep up a constant war with them.”

Prince Maximilian produced a book of his scientific observations made during the trip and an atlas of 81 lithographic prints done under the supervision of Karl Bodmer. A number of Bodmer’s prints are on display in the Bodmer Gallery in Old Fort Benton in Fort Benton, Montana. According to the display:

“Exploration on the Upper Missouri by Prince Maximilian of Wied-Neuweid and artist Karl Bodmer provided a vivid description of Native American life along the Missouri River corridor before the Anglo-European culture had much effect. Bodmer’s precise attention to detail and his lithographs of individual pieces of clothing, weapons, tools and ceremonial regalia leave an image to accompany the details found in the Prince’s journals.”

Bodmer’s works are considered one of the definitive works on Native Americans. They are today considered as the most accurate accounts of the Plains people before their ways were changed by the arrival of the Euro-Americans. Photographs of some of these prints are shown below.

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Traditional Basketry of Grays Harbor (Photo Diary)

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The Polson Museum in Hoquiam, Washington, has a room dedicated to “Common Land, Uncommon Cultures: Traditional Peoples of Grays Harbor.” The Quinault and Chehalis basketmakers used both wrapped and plain twined techniques. Shown below are some of the baskets which are on display.

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Shown above is a Quinault storage basket which uses cedar twining.  The lid is Makah in design.

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Suquamish Art (Photo Diary)

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The Northwest Coast is a region in which an entrenched and highly valued artistic tradition flourished and continues to flourish. The Suquamish are the people of the clear salt water. For more than 10,000 years they have occupied that area known today as the Kitsap Peninsula, Bainbridge Island, Blake Island, and parts of Whidbey Island in what is now the state of Washington.  Suquamish art continues today in a variety of different media. One room of the Suquamish Museum is dedicated to contemporary art forms.  

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Basketry:

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Woodwork:

One of the outstanding characteristics of the tribes of Northwest Coast is the highly developed skill of woodworking. Contemporary Suquamish artists continue to work in wood.

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One of the unique items among Northwest Coast Indians are kerfed boxes in which the sides of the box are made by scoring and then bending a single board to form the sides of the box. The single side seam is then carefully fitted and sewn together with spruce root. The bottom of the box is also carefully fitted and sewn to the sides. Shown above is a contemporary version of this traditional box.

Personal Adornment and Clothing:

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Masks:

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Wall Art:

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The design shown above is needlepoint.

Other art:

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Suquamish Basketry (Photo Diary)

The Northwest Coast is a region in which an entrenched and highly valued artistic tradition flourished and continues to flourish. The Suquamish are the people of the clear salt water. For more than 10,000 years they have occupied that area known today as the Kitsap Peninsula, Bainbridge Island, Blake Island, and parts of Whidbey Island in what is now the state of Washington.  

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Traditionally, the Suqamish made several different kinds of baskets, each with a special use. Writing in 1895, anthropologist Franz Boas reported:

“A great variety of baskets are used-large wicker baskets for carrying fish and clams, cedar bark baskets for purposes of storage.”

Coiled baskets were used for collecting berries, carrying water (yes, they were woven tight enough to be waterproof), cooking (hot stones were dropped in the water filled baskets to cook the food), and for storing dried foods. Open weave baskets were used for gathering clams, small fish, and seaweed.

After the European invasion began, the Suquamish basketmakers began making special baskets for sale as collectables. They also wove other small items for sale including dolls and toys.

Shown below are some of the baskets which are on display in the Suquamish Museum.

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The Suquamish Museum (Photo Diary)

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The area along the Pacific Coast north of California and between the Cascade Mountains and the ocean, is the home to many Indian nations who traditionally based their economy on the use of sea coast and river ecological resources. The Suquamish are the people of the clear salt water. For more than 10,000 years they have occupied that area known today as the Kitsap Peninsula, Bainbridge Island, Blake Island, and parts of Whidbey Island.  

“We are the Suquamish people. We are a tribe, a nation, a culture, and a family.

We share a proud heritage founded on the teachings of our ancestors, and an enduring future forged from our spirit, wisdom, and enterprise.

We are born of these ancient shores, where the water touches the land, and where the gifts of opportunity are revealed with every changing tide.

Wherever those tides may carry us, these shores will always be our home.”

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One wall of the museum (shown above) presents a time-line history of the Suquamish people.

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One of the most important Suquamish villages once stood on the shores of Agate Passage. This is where the Suquamish built Old Man House, the largest longhouse on the Salish Sea. This was a major intertribal gathering place where people from all across the region came together for trade, celebrations, and diplomacy. In 1841, Joseph Perry Sanford, a member of the United States Exploring Expedition, described the Old Man House:

“It measured 200 ft by 100 ft. The floor is of earth and sunken. It had on either side 20 uprights and on which were rudely carved uncouth figures with head, eyes &c.”

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The entrance to the museum is between two carved house poles which are sometimes called the welcoming figures.

The Museum:

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Shown below are some of the items displayed at the museum:

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The Squamish were traditionally a fishing people. Mounted on the museum’s ceiling is a display (see photos above) showing a woven net/basket and a school of fish.

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The rather nondescript rocks shown above, labeled as “cooking rocks”, were heated in a fire, then dropped into a water-filled basket. In this way, the water could be brought to a boil and the food cooked. It should be noted that not just any rocks can be used for this since many rocks simply disintegrate when heated.

Spirituality:

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As with other Indian tribes, living a successful life depended on the assistance of spiritual helpers. Individuals had songs and dances, set to the rhythms of hand drums, to obtain their help. Much of the carving and painting on both common and ceremonial objects was designed to gain cooperation from one’s spiritual guides.

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Shown above is a raven rattle.

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More Plateau Indian Beadwork (Photo Diary)

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In American Indian cultures, art is not separate from daily life. Traditionally, the things people used in their everyday life-clothing, tools, housing, containers-were often decorated to enhance their beauty and their spirituality. Prior to the European invasion, the Indian people of the Plateau area-roughly the area between the Rocky Mountains and the Cascade Mountains in the Pacific Northwest-decorated their clothing and other items with paintings, with beads made from shell, animal teeth, bone, and other items, and with porcupine quills. With the European invasion, new decorative elements became available to the Indians: glass beads. These beads were quickly adopted into the cultures and began to replace and supplement both painting and quilling. The Plateau Indians soon became well-known for their fine bead work. Shown below are some examples of Plateau Indian beadwork which are on display at the museum at the Travelers’ Rest State Park in Lolo, Montana.  

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Moccasins:

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Gloves:

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Plateau Indian Artifacts (Photo Diary)

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Prior to the European invasion, the Indian people of the Plateau area-roughly the area between the Rocky Mountains and the Cascade Mountains in the Pacific Northwest-decorated their clothing and other items with paintings, with beads made from shell, animal teeth, bone, and other items, and with porcupine quills. Shown below are some Plateau Indian artifacts which are on display at the museum at the Travelers’ Rest State Park in Lolo, Montana.

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Shown above is an example of quill work. The design is made from porcupine quills.

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Shown above is a parfleche: a large leather envelope.

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Shown above is a feather bustle that was often used as a part of a dance outfit.

Drums:

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Cradleboards:

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Plateau Indian Beadwork (Photo Diary)

In American Indian cultures, art is not separate from daily life. Traditionally, the things people used in their everyday life-clothing, tools, housing, containers-were often decorated to enhance their beauty and their spirituality. Prior to the European invasion, the Indian people of the Plateau area-roughly the area between the Rocky Mountains and the Cascade Mountains in the Pacific Northwest-decorated their clothing and other items with paintings, with beads made from shell, animal teeth, bone, and other items, and with porcupine quills. With the European invasion, new decorative elements became available to the Indians: glass beads. These beads were quickly adopted into the cultures and began to replace and supplement both painting and quilling. The Plateau Indians soon became well-known for their fine bead work. Shown below are some example of Plateau Indian beadwork which are on display at the Portland (Oregon) Art Museum.  

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Beaded bags are made and used throughout the Plateau area. The beaded bags are usually made from cloth and beaded on one side only. The beadwork is an appliqué technique in which the beads lie evenly over the surface of the bag in straight rows that extend from one side of the bag to the other. The main design is beaded first and then the background is beaded around it.

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Plateau Indian Art

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The area between the Cascade Mountains and the Rocky Mountains in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia, and Western Montana is known as the Plateau Culture area. From north to south it runs from the Fraser River in the north to the Blue Mountains in the south. One of the most important geographic and culture features of the region is the Columbia River. American Indian people have lived along the Columbia River in permanent and semi-permanent villages for thousands of years. As with other American Indian people, art was not a separate category in their lives, but was a part of everyday life. In museum collections, such as that of the Portland (Oregon) Art Museum, their art is often categorized as carvings (stone, bone, wood), beadwork, and basketry.  

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While it is common for people to assume that basketry refers to containers, shown above are some typical examples of Plateau basketry used in making hats.

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Cylinder Bags:

Also called Sally Bags and Corn Husk Bags, these bags were made from cornhusk, hemp, string, and yarn using a continuous weave that eliminates seams. Originally, these bags were used for storing foods, such as roots, as the tightness of the weave keeps out dust and dirt.

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Columbia River Stone Carvings (Photo Diary)

In a few instances stone carvings have been found in the archaeological sites along the Columbia River. Carved from the abundant basalt many of these figures are relatively small and they are stylistically similar to the many petroglyphs found along the river, These carvings are depict animals found in the area, such as bighorn sheep, condors, seals, beavers, and owls. Many of these figures have small bowl-like depressions in them which may indicate that they were used to hold something. In rare instances, Columbia River stone carvings represent human figures or human-like figures. Shown below are some of the stone carvings on display at the Portland (Oregon) Art Museum.

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Ancient America: Mesoamerican Art

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Prior to the European invasion, Mesoamerica was the home to many highly developed civilizations. Geographically this is a region that extends from central Mexico to South America. Shown below are some of the items from these ancient Mesoamerican cultures which are on display at the Portland (Oregon) Art Museum.  

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Shown above are some labrets: these are plugs which are inserted in a hole in the lower lip.

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Shown above is a piece from the Omec.

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Ancient America: South American Art

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Prior to the European invasion, South America was the home to many highly developed civilizations. Homo sapiens have lived in South America for at least 15,000 years and possibly longer. By 2000 BCE some highly developed civilizations had emerged in the region. There was a dramatic increase in population during this time and the economies became more dependent on stable, intensive agricultural systems.

The Inka Empire was the dominant state at the time of the Spanish conquest. The Inka had expanded out of their home in Cuzco to control an empire which spread from modern Ecuador in the north to central Chile in the south. The expansion of the Inka Empire began about 1438 and grew by military conquest.

The ancient civilizations of South American are well-known for their metalwork, particularly their work in gold which the Spanish often melted down; their pottery, which includes realistic portrayals of men and women (including men and women engaged in sexual intercourse); and finely woven textiles. Shown below are some of the items from these ancient South American cultures which are on display at the Portland Museum of Art.

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Shown above are clothing pins.  

Southwestern Art (Photo Diary)

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The Southwest Culture Area is a culturally diverse area. Geographically it covers all of Arizona and New Mexico and includes parts of Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and Texas as well as parts of the Mexican states of Sonora and Chihuahua. Much of this area is semi-arid; part of it is true desert (southern Arizona); and part of it has upland and mountain ranges which support conifers. Culturally, the area can be divided into four basic cultural traditions: Pueblo, Athabascan, Piman, and Yuman.  

In northern Arizona and New Mexico there are several Indian tribes who have traditionally lived in compact villages. The Spanish used the word pueblo which means “town” in referring to these people. The Pueblo people are not a single cultural tradition, but are in fact several distinct cultures. They share some features – farming, housing – and are very different in others.

Around 1400 CE a new group of people began to enter the Southwest. These Athabascan-speaking people – the Navajo and the Apache – migrated from the area north of Edmonton, Alberta.

The Sonoran desert of Arizona and Sonora is the home of a number of Piman-speaking groups, primarily the Tohono O’odham (Papago) and Akimel O’odham (Pima).

The area along the Colorado and Gila Rivers was the traditional home to a number of Yuman-speaking tribes



Pottery:

The pottery traditions of the Southwestern Pueblos are well-known to museums, art collectors, and others. For many centuries, Pueblo people have made and used a wide variety of pottery containers, including bowls, jars, cups, ladles, and canteens. Pueblo pottery is traditionally formed with a coil technique in which coils of clay are circled around the base of the pot to form the walls of the vessel. Shown below are some examples of Southwestern pottery on display at the Portland Art Museum.

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Perhaps the best known Pueblo pottery is María Martínez of San Ildelfonso Pueblo. Examples of her black-on-black pottery are shown above.

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Basketry:

All of the Indian nations in the Southwest produced basketry.

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Carvings:

During the past century, the carving of katsina “dolls” called tihu by the Hopihas become a major art form which is well-recognized in the art world. These are carved by relatives of little Indian girls and presented to these children at Katsina dances to teach the children the features and meaning of the Katsinas. Traditional carvers feel that those who carve the katsina “dolls” should be able to speak Hopi because knowledge of the language is required to truly participate in Hopi ceremonies. Without full participation in Hopi ceremonies, the carvers cannot know the true spiritual intent of the katsina. Some of the carvings displayed in the Portland Art Museum are shown below.

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Note: while the term “kachina” is commonly used, the tribe prefers the designation “katsina.”

Southwestern Art (Photo Diary)

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The Southwest Culture Area is a culturally diverse area. Geographically it covers all of Arizona and New Mexico and includes parts of Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and Texas as well as parts of the Mexican states of Sonora and Chihuahua. Much of this area is semi-arid; part of it is true desert (southern Arizona); and part of it has upland and mountain ranges which support conifers. Culturally, the area can be divided into four basic cultural traditions: Pueblo, Athabascan, Piman, and Yuman.  

In northern Arizona and New Mexico there are several Indian tribes who have traditionally lived in compact villages. The Spanish used the word pueblo which means “town” in referring to these people. The Pueblo people are not a single cultural tradition, but are in fact several distinct cultures. They share some features – farming, housing – and are very different in others.

Around 1400 CE a new group of people began to enter the Southwest. These Athabascan-speaking people – the Navajo and the Apache – migrated from the area north of Edmonton, Alberta.

The Sonoran desert of Arizona and Sonora is the home of a number of Piman-speaking groups, primarily the Tohono O’odham (Papago) and Akimel O’odham (Pima).

The area along the Colorado and Gila Rivers was the traditional home to a number of Yuman-speaking tribes

Pottery:

The pottery traditions of the Southwestern Pueblos are well-known to museums, art collectors, and others. For many centuries, Pueblo people have made and used a wide variety of pottery containers, including bowls, jars, cups, ladles, and canteens. Pueblo pottery is traditionally formed with a coil technique in which coils of clay are circled around the base of the pot to form the walls of the vessel. Shown below are some examples of Southwestern pottery on display at the Portland Art Museum.

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Perhaps the best known Pueblo pottery is María Martínez of San Ildelfonso Pueblo. Examples of her black-on-black pottery are shown above.

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Basketry:

All of the Indian nations in the Southwest produced basketry.

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Carvings:

During the past century, the carving of katsina “dolls” called tihu by the Hopihas become a major art form which is well-recognized in the art world. These are carved by relatives of little Indian girls and presented to these children at Katsina dances to teach the children the features and meaning of the Katsinas. Traditional carvers feel that those who carve the katsina “dolls” should be able to speak Hopi because knowledge of the language is required to truly participate in Hopi ceremonies. Without full participation in Hopi ceremonies, the carvers cannot know the true spiritual intent of the katsina. Some of the carvings displayed in the Portland Art Museum are shown below.

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Note: while the term “kachina” is commonly used, the tribe prefers the designation “katsina.”

Eastern Woodlands Art

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The area of the United States east of the Mississippi River is often referred to as the Eastern Woodlands. This is an area in which American Indians practiced agriculture for at least a millennium prior to the European invasion. Shown below are some examples of Eastern Woodlands Indian art on display at the Portland Art Museum.

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Woven History, Part 2 (Photo Diary)

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Old baskets are fascinating. They reflect traditions and skills, as well as changes to culture and lifestyle. They speak to us from the past and can tell us much about the weaver’s life and society’s values.

The display of Native American baskets at the Clark County Historical Museum in Vancouver, Washington, includes baskets from many of the tribes of the Pacific coast, Columbia Plateau, and Northern California areas. Shown below are some more of the items which the museum has on display.  

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Weaving was used not only in making baskets, but also in making hats as can be seen in the woven woman’s hat shown above.  

Unknown American Indian Painting

Hello,

Can anyone tell me anything about this painting? I bought it in 1990 in San Antonio from an estate sale the owners had died and an estate liqidation company was running the sales. The owner was an Anthropologist.

Any help would be apprecieated.

William Ussery

jackieussery@gmail.com

I can send you a picture if you give me your email address. Does not look like this forum lets you post pics.

Northwest Coast Textiles (Photo Diary)

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The Northwest Coast peoples have a wide variety of garments which are worn during ceremonies and for special occasions. Sometimes the clothes are decorated with crest designs that show the wearer’s clan. Shown below are some examples of Northwest Coast textiles and weaving which are on display at the Portland Art Museum.  

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Some neckpieces are shown above.

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One of the best examples of Northwest Coast weaving can be seen in the Chilkat Dancing Blankets or Robes (example shown above). These blankets combine the twining of mountain goat wool and cedar bark with the images of mythological creatures. According to some experts, The pattern of the Chilcat blanket came from the Tsimshian and was adopted by the Tlingit, the Chilcat people specializing in its production, owning to the ease with which mountain goat’s wool could be procured in their district.

Traditionally, it would take a year or more to make a Chilkat Blanket. The blankets are woven by the women, but the designs are painted by male artists on special pattern boards.

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A pattern board for a Chilcat robe is shown above.

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This is another woven robe.

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A woven rain hat or canoe hat is shown above.

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A button blanket is shown above. This is a Tlingit blanket made about 1900 with pearl buttons and wool cloth. Button blankets were developed during the 19th century. Most are made of dark blue wool with a red pattern. The buttons are sewn individually to create the desired pattern.

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A pair of leggings is shown above.