Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

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Bark beater

Oh, the cedar tree! / If mankind in his infancy / had prayed for the perfect substance / for all material and aesthetic needs, / an indulgent god could have provided / nothing better.... / When steamed / it will bend without breaking / it will make houses and boats / and boxes and cooking pots. / Its bark will make mats, / even clothing.

—Bill Reid, from “Out of the Silence,” 1971

In the traditional Haida view, red and yellow cedar trees are the highest-ranking plants. Their wood went into houses, canoes, crest poles, containers, and implements of all kinds. The bark was woven or twisted into baskets, mats, rope, rain cloaks, hats, and ceremonial rings, and it formed the strong inner core of mountain goat yarn used for weaving robes. After soaking in water, yellow cedar bark could be softened with a ridged bone beater and then shredded or pulled into strips.

Culture: Haida
Region: Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia, Canada
Object Category: Tools
Dimensions: Length 34cm
Accession Date: 1908
Source: Thomas Crosby (collector)
Museum: National Museum of the American Indian
Museum ID Number: 018092.000