Tuesday, November 30, 2010
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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!
It is the button blanket. With about a hundred and sixty years of history, it has survived the changes. "To me, it is the symbol of that change" Dorothy Grant (1993).
Doreen J., & Dorothy G. (1993) Robes of Power: Totem Poles on Cloth. Council of Canada: 'Ksan Publication.
The first items the Haida wanted from white traders were iron blades to make their wood carving easier and later they wanted cloth blankets, and buttons. Freda Diesing (1993) states that "After 1880, missionary influence and the law discouraged the Haida people from using their blankets and other traditional garments; many were sold to museums. After 1950, some people started making button blankets again." By at least 1970, many people had button blankets again, and this led to the revival of the dances some ceremonies, but it cannot have the same meanings as it did originally. Much of the past has been forgotten.
Doreen J., & Freda Diesing (1993) Robes of Power: Totem Poles on Cloth. Canada Council: 'Ksan Publications
Congrats! You've made a button blanket! And it only took you a couple minutes, fancy that! Normally it would take at least a year to make a blanket such as this; imagine not being able to do this with out a sewing machine or pins. On average, button blankets take about 1 to 5 years to complete.
Alex, B. "Northwest Coast Culture" include the Eyak, Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian culture Retrieved November 29, 2010 from AAANativeArts
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Thursday, November 25, 2010
I didn't list the Tsimshian or Gitksan above because they have a phratry system of clans “four groups instead of two.” In the Tsimshian clan system consists of; Killer whale (Black Fish), Wolf, Raven, and Eagle. In the Gitksan clan system consists of; Fireweed, Wolf, Raven, and Eagle.
By identifying all these groups of clans you are able to determine who was to marry who and who were bitter enemies. In my next entry I will have almost successfully mapped out a table to show how each of these native groups equate to each other just by looking at their regalia! Imagine you as a child and you wouldn't even need a table; naturally you could identify who was who!
The Alaska Native Heritage Museum (2010) Cultures of Alaska-Eyak, Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian Retrieved November 29, 2010, from The Alaska Native Heritage Museum
Friday, November 12, 2010
The button blanket is normally made with 3 colors; red, black, and white. In pre-colonial times, some blankets were made with blue duffel instead of black. All the colors have a certain spiritual meaning to them.
Red; is the border lining of the button blanket and outline for the design. The color Red, represents super natural power, wealth, and nobility.
Black; the black background was believed to make the wearer invincible. And Death, when letting go of bad thoughts and behavior. It is also a form of dying and being reborn.
White; the white buttons represented peace, harmony, and balance. They also formed the family crest, and were sown onto the red border lining of the blanket.
Blue; blue duffel blankets are related to Father Sky and Flying beings.
Purple; purple duffel blankets represents wisdom of the ages.
D., Jensen, & P., Sargeant (Robes of Power)