Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

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Bark-working tool

hltánhlk’ sgidáangwaay “bark shreader”
Language: Haida

Then he went away with his wife, came home, and told her to ask something of her mother. “Mother, have you any cedar bark?” “Yes, chief-woman, my daughter.” Then she gave him some. They dried it around the fire, went to work upon it, and pounded it up for cedar-bark rings.

—from “A Slender One Who Was Given Away,” told by Skaay, in “Haida Texts and Myths,” 1905

Cedar tree people appear in Haida oral tradition, and cedar bark, so present in daily life, was known as “every woman’s elder sister.” Women used a flat bone tool like this one to split yellow cedar bark into layers, selecting the bright-colored inner material for plaiting baskets and mats. They dried and shredded red cedar bark by draping it over a paddle or other sharp edge and beating it with the same tool. They transformed the softened bark into ceremonial rings, rain cloaks, hats, and blankets.

Culture: Haida
Region: Southeast Alaska
Object Category: Tools
Dimensions: Length 22cm
Accession Date: 1949
Source: Museum Purchase
Museum: National Museum of the American Indian
Museum ID Number: 213494.000