Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

 
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Tunic

k’uudáats’ káahlii “shirt”
Language: Haida

I was the first person in Masset to make button blankets in recent years…My husband drew a grizzly bear design for it.

—Florence Davidson, 1982, from “During My Time: Florence Davidson, a Haida Woman,” 1982

This late nineteenth-century dance tunic is made of red wool appliqué on black wool cloth and shows a bear crest design outlined in small shell buttons. The sleeves are red cotton with lace ruffles at the cuffs. Collector James Swan purchased it from Bear Skin, a Skidegate chief. Haida artists invented appliqué dance blankets and tunics around 1850, ornamenting them with dentalium shells, mother of pearl buttons, and squares of abalone shell. Florence Davidson said that they were first made in Masset after a missionary forbade the raising of totem poles; the blankets and tunics were an alternative way for people to show their clan crests.

Culture: Haida
Region: Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia, Canada
Object Category: Clothing
Dimensions: Length 104cm
Accession Date: 1888
Source: James G. Swan (collector)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E129984