Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Final Entry

Through this blog; I have gone over: Button blankets, the materials for creating a Button Blanket, the Southeast native groups, the corresponding clans, made a map of the clans, shown artistry, specified the styles of weaving and sewing a button blanket, given a few references, shown you a few of the button blankets in action (with relevant dances), shown you the misrepresentation of Native American (not Indian) button blankets, and my own personal experience with Southern Button Blanket.

I hope the readers of this blog have a better understanding of what Southern Button Blankets: are, represent, what they are used for, how they are made, and the cultural significance of Button Blankets. Thank you for reading this and I hope you this inspires you to proceed with Alaska Native Studies.

My experience

My experience with button blankets is probably only half as cultural as it should be. I lived in a village for some time. During school hours we were not allowed to learn about native traditions or values. But after school almost everyone was sent to a native art class. Where we learned about native art, culture, and stories. We lived in a small village, and whenever someone would throw a pot latch; everyone was invited. My mother told us to get our button blankets and we'd go. We were taught that our blankets were supposed to be some kind of other worldly blanket and it would help us some how. I distinctly remember dancing to a hunting song. Me and my brother were supposed to find our way through some kind of forest, hunting for animals. I remember a few elders with seal drums. It confused me a little bit because a few of them played them upside down or with their wrists.

Labels for button blankets

I'm not quite sure what to title this post with but I did my best. In my research about button blankets for Native Americans in Southeast Alaska; there seems to be a bit of confusion. A lot of sources and elementary school teachers are, not necessarily wrong, but misinterpreted. Some Native Americans may take the term "Indian" as offense or will say they are not "Indian" whatsoever. In my research, the term "Indian" came up at least eighty percent of the time. The sad thing is that these sources are mainly located in Washington state. I pointed out school teachers for a specific reason; many of the lesson plans or classes are doing kid versions of button blankets.

The instructions are simple enough, but the term "Alaska Indian" or "Northwest Coast Indian." This is an improper term for research sake and some tribes might find it offensive. It was difficult trying to find reliable sources; I didn't think of typing in "Alaska Indian" while searching. I was taught that "Native American" was the proper term and that it was appropriate when addressing topics such as button blankets. I didn't feel very comfortable using sources that had "Indian" in the title; that wasn't how I was taught to respectfully address a Native American. With this all in mind; whenever I tried searching for "Native Button Blankets" the term "Indian" showed up the majority of the time.

Sources that should be corrected or not to be confused with "Indian":

How to make a Northwest Indian Button Blanket

Button Blanket | Ask.com Encyclopedia

The Killerwhale Dance Group: The Eagle Song

The dancers in this video belong to the Killer Whale Dance Group (clan). And perform the Eagle song. Note how the Killer Whale or Black Fish is designed on the dancers blankets. Lacking in buttons; this group either is trying to modernize they're type of button blanket or did not have time to finish said blankets. The dancers are Tsimshian, and if you have been keeping up so far in this blog you will remember that Killer Whale (Black Fish) clan belongs to the Tsimshian phratry.

Tlingit Dance

In the video above you will see some native Tlingit dancers. Note that all of the dancers are wearing traditional button blankets. Or modernized button blankets. The reason some or the majority of all the dancers have blank blankets is that the majority of them most likely didn't have enough time to finish sewing on their clan crest. The bear pelt indicates that they are most likely from the Bear clan. The dance performed in this video is called the "Hoonah." Much like the town of Alaska. Other clues may indicate that these Tlingit dancers belong to the Snail House in Hoonah.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Chilkat Weaving!

Chilkat weaving can be applied to blankets, robes, dance tunics, aprons, leggings, shirts, vests, bags, hats, and wall-hangings. Traditionally, chiefs would wear Chilkat blankets during potlatch ceremonies. Chilkat weaving is one of the most complex weaving techniques in the world. It is unique in that the artist can create curvilinear and circular forms within the weave itself. A Chilkat blanket can take a year to weave. Traditionally mountain goat wool, dog fur, and yellow cedar bark are used in Chilkat weaving. Today sheep wool might be used.

Haida Dancing

Above is a video highlighting a Haida dance. Note that the first set of dancers are all wearing modern versions of button blankets. The after effects of colonial influence and take over are shown in this video. But the spirit of the Haida people isn't broken; can you see the enthusiasm of the younger generation as they jump in, with or without the traditional wear? This video, like many, highlights that the healing is just beginning and things are looking up!