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Stewart, Hilary.

Vancouver, Douglas & McIntyre, c1984. 192pp, cloth, $24.95, ISBN 0-88894-437-3. CIP

Grades 6 and up
Reviewed by Grace E. Funk

Volume 13 Number 2
1985 March

The beauty of cedar is photographed for the cover. On a glowing woven mat (inner bark) are displayed beautiful woven baskets (roots), finely carved boxes (wood), ropes (withes), a bark beater, and green cedar fronds.

Within the book are 550 line drawings and fifty photographs, graphically rendering the lives, inextricably woven with cedar, of Northwest Coast Indians. To the peoples of the Pacific Northwest, life, comfort and culture depended on the cedar trees.

Hilary Stewart is an artist, archaeologist, botanist, and researcher. She has found, from the village elders, from the earliest accounts, from the world's libraries and museums, and from her own experiments, just how the tools and techniques were used, to make objects of cedar for practical or ceremonial use. For the people of the cedar, art is a way of life, and cedar is the inspiration. Throughout the book, emphasis is placed on the fact that the knowledge and skills never died out.

Like the cover, the information is organized to show the uses made of the different parts of the tree: the wood, the bark, the withes and the roots of the western red cedar and the yellow cedar. The book opens with a brief description of the people of the cedar, and of the trees, and it closes with an account of the spiritual significance of the cedar. The writing is clear, informal and readable. The drawings are highly informative. Here are the great plank houses, the seagoing canoes, the steambent boxes, the dramatic masks, the logging techniques, the methods of weaving blankets of bark and baskets of roots. One of the most interesting techniques described is that of "pulling" great strips of cedar bark for weaving, from living trees.

The book is beautifully designed, a reader's delight. It is also a scholar's reference, from the map, acknowledgements, and reference keys in the front to the bibliography and index in the back. For the craftsman, for the student of any age, for all school libraries in British Columbia (I hope), for school and public libraries anywhere in multicultural Canada, Cedar is highly recommended.

A foreword by Bill Reid, dean of West Coast Indian artists, says "Hilary Stewart . . .tells of the wonder of the cedar tree with, . .loving awe." The frontispiece in the book is a drawing of Bill Reid's "Raven and the First Men," a carving in yellow cedar.

Note: Cedar coincides with the opening of an exhibition of the same name at the Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, and it follows several other books by Hilary Stewart on Native artifacts, Native fishing, Native art.

Grace E. Funk, Harwood E.S. Vernon B.C.
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