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Johnson, Elizabeth Lominska and Kathryn Bernick.

Vancouver, University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology, c1986. 32pp, paper, $4.95, ISBN 0-88865-108-2. (Museum Note #16).

Grades 8 and up
Reviewed by Adele Case

Volume 15 Number 3
1987 May

In the past decade there has been a resurgence of interest in the traditional art forms and native crafts practiced by many of the West Coast Indian tribes. Carving, dancing, and even basket-making and weaving are now being relearned by a new generation, one that has pride in the past. And the past is providing clues, despite the rainy climate on the coast that encourages dry and. wet rot in wooden and textile artifacts. Hands of Our Ancestors is a University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology Note prepared as an adjunct to an exhibit of native work mounted at the museum from January 28 to July 20, 1986. The booklet was partly funded by a special grant made to celebrate Vancouver's Centennial. Assistance was also given by members of the Musqueam Indian Band (situated in the Fraser River delta area), as well as by Vancouver archivists, the National Museum, and a few corporate sponsors.

Salish weaving had almost vanished, and this booklet celebrates the revival of the craft. It also encourages speculation about the differences in materials or patterns that might be found if there was a really complete study made of the work of other coastal tribes. One thing is certain: the many black-and-white illustrations give evidence of handwork that is beautiful, varied, and practical. In such a tiny booklet, there cannot be a scholarly critique of the different weaves, or the designs. Many of the latter employ the geometric arrowhead pattern, used either horizontally or vertically, and the effect has a boldness and clarity that blends well with the texture of the natural wool used for many of the articles. Examples described include leggings, tumplines (used to assist the man or woman in hauling goods), dresses, coats, pillow covers, and blankets. Vegetable dyes were often experimented with, and the carding and spinning of the wool was done by hand. It is interesting to read how the tribal elders (some very old women) were used as resource people. Their contribution has been to transmit their knowledge to today's young Indian weavers. Even cedar bark weaving is being tried again, after a twenty-year interval.

Despite its size limitations, this small book should serve as a sign that Indian peoples are actively attempting to regain status and pride through the production of woven products long neglected. No one who has owned an authentic Indian-knitted toque or sweater will need convincing that these native arts ought not to be lost, for the garments are warm even when sodden with rain or mist. My own toque is over a decade old, worn and faded, but still waterproof and always cosy. Long may the weavers prosper.

Adele Case, Britannia S.S., Vancouver, B.C.
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