The Museum of Civilization in Gatineau near Ottawa, Canada has a very large collection of Northwest Coast Native American artifacts. Basketry has always been part of the Native culture along the Pacific Northwest coast. The collection at the museum includes Coast Salish baskets such as the one pictured below.
Baskets were expertly woven with strips of cedar. Sometimes cherry bark was used for certain sections as well. Northwest Coast Native American tribes used these baskets during the picking of berries, harvesting of seafood and also cooking.
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Button blankets were produced by Northwest Coast Native American tribes of the Haida, Tsimshian, Tlingit and Nisga'a. Interestingly enough, button blankets were made after contact with Europeans after the Northwest Coast Native American people got exposed to new materials through trading.
The button blanket was worn like a robe as feast and ceremony attire. They were usually made of blue or black duffle with red stroud. Shells and abalone pieces were used to highlight certain parts of the designs. These shiny pieces reflected light which resulted in an interesting visual effect when worn around a dancer in full motion.
Bullet casings were sometimes used as well in the trimming as they made sound effects during dances. Pearl buttons acquired from fur traders were used to form the outlines of designs. The use of different types of buttons became more popular as they became more readily available over the years from trading activities (thus the term button blanket).
Northwest Coast Native American button blankets were designed to represent family crests, clans, rank and social status. They were highly prized gift items at potlatches.
Button blankets were also used by the Haida recently to wrap the remains of ancestors repatriated back to their homeland in BC, Canada after many years at foreign museums.
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