North-South-East-West: American Indians and the Natural World

Surviving Creatively: A New Art Form

glasses and caseWoodlands Artistry
The Iroquois were not the only Woodlands nations to make objects for the flourishing tourist trade. Abenaki, Huron, Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot, among others, all participated in this economy.

Native groups specialized in particular techniques and crafts applied their knowledge to the new market. Eastern Canada's Micmac people rechanneled their traditional quillworking skills into producing quilled patterns on birch bark for Victorian customers. The objects they made ranged from small lidded boxes to chair seats and backs totally appliquéd in quills.

Huron women, adept at working in moose hair and birch bark, taught the Ursuline nuns who arrived in French Canada in the seventeenth century how to work in these materials. When the religious orders established mission schools, the nuns trained the Native women to do fine embroidery in European floral designs. The resulting moose hair objects combined the embroidery traditions of two cultures.

Images: Moose Hair Glasses Case
Huron?, Micmac?, ca. 1850-1860
Commercial wool, paper, commercial silk, moose hair (Alces alces), dye; L 15.8 x W 4.2 cm; 35460-1
North Eastern United States, early 1800s
Brass, glass, gold?; W 11.0 x H 2.5 cm; 16049-4, gift of Mrs. Davenport Hooker

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