North-South-East-West: American Indians and the Natural World
Surviving Creatively: A New Art Form
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.