Archive for the 'leather' Category

Object: North American Arctic Coast Dolls

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E/1944/01/115

Parka

Inuit

USA: North American Arctic Coast

  1. 1890

Possible Squirrel Fur, Thread, Gingham Fabric Lining

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E/1959/08/053 a-b

Female and Male Doll

Inuit

USA: North American Arctic Coast

  1. 1920s (?)

Dolls: Carved from Wood, Painted Faces.

Clothing: Caribou Skin, Marten Hide, Rabbit Fur, Thread, and Wooden Soled Boots.

Tools: Woven Basket, Wooden Ladle, Wooden Bow & Arrow

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E/1983/02/001

Doll

Alaskan

North American Arctic Coast: Alaskan

1970s

Leather, Possibly Rabbit or Marten Fur, thread, commercial fabric, beads

This week blog post hosts a variety of dolls and doll items from the North American Arctic coast. This collection of objects shows the medley of style, dress, and make of dolls found within Western Alaskan, Inuit, and coastal communities. The dolls span the time period of 1890-1970s and you will see a great diversity in material and style between these little figures. According to the Canadian Museum of History, peoples in the Northern Arctic have practiced the skill of making dolls for over 2,000 years.

 

15330293355_b2c610ac6b_o

An example of a waterproof gut kayak cover and parka. Photo Courtesy of the National Museum of Denmark. Licensed by CC-BY-SA 2.0

 

Inuit hunters sometimes mounted a small doll to the front of their boats to bring them luck. Additionally, the art of making dolls, as well as their miniature clothing and tools served as a valuable lesson in craft production for children. While it was not uncommon for both men and women to sew in these Northern communities, women typically took the role of tanners and seamstresses in the household. For this reason, it is likely that these dolls were made by women. Additionally, young girls were often included in the process of creating dolls and their accompanying garments. This allowed them to practice their skills at sewing by helping with the craft or observing the process.

The materials used to make dolls range from hides such as sealskin, caribou, and furs. However, dolls also include implements like ivory, wood, human hair, sinew, and even intestine and gut. This was far more than child’s play,  learning and mastering the skill of the waterproof seam and stitch was a life-saving skill in more ways than one. In the icy tundra of the far north, staying warm and dry were vital to staying alive. Learning to work with delicate materials such as waterproof intestine to make a parka needed to be practiced.

The “tunnel stitch” is the technique widely used by the Inuit people for example. This stitch ensures a waterproof seal by leaving the outside hide or layer unpunctured. Another innovation in Inuit and artic fashion was the use of waterproof parkas, bags, kayaks and more. In order to sew and wear intestine or gut garments, they must first be oiled or stored in a moist environment. That may seem counter-productive to creating a waterproof garment, but this ensured that the delicate membrane of the gut stayed malleable and would not tear during the production or wear. To see more details about working with gut and intestine to make waterproof clothing, check out this youtube video which details the process of making a Sanightaaq or ceremonial gut parka.

These lessons in tool and clothing production are seen in nearly every doll, despite the wide variety of materials and styles. Each community had a different approach to doll craft. The examples within the Sam Noble utilize a variety of materials common in doll production from as far and wide as North America, Greenland, and the Arctic coast. Dolls crafted in the arctic regions often implemented wood or ivory as the body of their dolls,  as seen in the examples of E/19598/053a-b.  Traditional and realistic clothing, like the parka (E/1944/01/115)  from the collection, would ornament these figures. Whereas the doll from the 1970s (E/1982/02/001) blends traditional and commercial materials.

While the styles, materials, and means of production for doll creation is as diverse as the communities themselves, they all share and pass down important cultural lessons. They instruct on working with a variety of tools and materials such as sinew, gut, thread, fur, hide, and more recently, the use of steel needles and waxed dental floss. Whatever they are made from, however, the dolls also represent a labor of love, each one taking hours to carefully stitch and craft. Whether a child was gifted one of these dolls, or aided in its production, they represent meaningful hours under the careful instruction of a mother, aunt, or grandmother. Ultimately, at their completion, they stand as a thing of beauty and imagination.

 

Sources and Additional Reading:

“Inuit Dolls from Pre-history to Today.” Canadian Museum of History. https://www.historymuseum.ca/cmc/exhibitions/hist/dolls/doinu01e.shtml (Accessed April 17, 2018).

 

“Sewing and Decorating Techniques.” The Bata Shoe Museum http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/edu/ViewLoitLo.do;jsessionid=A3A1C4CF884054AA3EB7386AEE0910BA?method=preview&lang=EN&id=22868  (Accessed April 17th, 2018).

 

Bruchac, Margaret. “Baffin Island Inuit Doll: Dressed to Care.” University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. https://www.penn.museum/blog/museum/baffin-island-inuit-doll-dressed-to-care/ (Accessed April 17th, 2018).

 

((Christina J. Naruszewicz))

Object: Quiver, Bow, and Arrows

Figure 1 Comanche arrows from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

Figure 1 Comanche arrows from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

Figure 2 Comanche Quiver from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

Figure 2 Comanche Quiver from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

Figure 3 Comanche bow from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

Figure 3 Comanche bow from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

E/1930/1/52
E/1930/1/53
E/1930/1/54
Quiver, Bow, and Arrows
Comanche
North America: Southern Plains
Date: 1930
Materials: Wood, feathers, sinew, leather

These objects are common tools when it comes to studying Native Americans. Each tribe has their own way of making bows and arrows and different styles for use. These objects were used by the Comanche people. The bow is 42” long. The arrows are between approximately 22”-26” in length.

There are many things the Comanche are well-known for: one being horsemanship and another being the ability to successfully use the bow while riding on horseback. The size of the bow and arrows are short, making them very maneuverable while riding. Being able to aim easily from side to side while riding was crucial to survival for the Comanche. Not only is the length of the bow important, but the strength of it is also important. The wood used typically is Osage Orange or Bo Dark wood. Sinew is a very strong cordage obtained from the tendons of bison. Sinew is used for many different resources among plains Native Americans. The Comanche used it for many different reasons, and in this case it was tied together to form the string of the bow.

The quiver is used to carry the bow and arrows together, each having a special spot inside the quiver. The quiver is made primarily from bison or cow hide. The quiver can be decorated in a number of ways with beadwork and fringe. One resource implemented in the quiver is called the ‘boss man.’ This is an object with a round circular base that fits in the bottom of the quiver. The base is attached to a handle used to easily pull out the arrows that rest within the quiver.

Figure 4 Comanche Bow demonstration at the Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center

Figure 4 Comanche Bow demonstration at the Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center

The arrows in this collection are short in length to match the bow. The arrows measure between 22”-26” in length. This is very similar to other Comanche arrows studied. The arrow points were typically made from flint, but the Comanche adopted steel points after contact with new European settlers. The wood of the arrows is made from the straightest wood possible, dog wood. The fletching on the back end of the arrows is the Comanche style of Red Tail Hawk feathers. The tough material of sinew is used to tie on the arrow fletching.

To learn more about Comanche bows, arrows, and quivers, take a look at the below videos produced by the Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center:

[Jared Wahkinney]

References

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJkGM-GNRPI.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sez4GNIOaNY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlVaE1j6efY

 

Object: Knife and Sheath

Figure 1    Crooked Knife and Sheath from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History
Figure 1 Knife and Sheath from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

E/1959/7/26
Knife and Sheath
Inuit
North America
Materials: Iron, hide, wood

This particular object is a small curved iron knife approximately 8 3/4 inches in length and 1 1/4 inches in width at its widest point on the wooden handle and resides in the Ethnology Collection at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. According to Museum records, this knife is believed to have come from the North American region and was used by the Inuit.

Figure 2   Map of the Inuit peoples, photo courtesy of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Canada’s National Inuit Organization.

Figure 2   Map of the Inuit peoples, photo courtesy of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Canada’s National Inuit Organization.

The term “Inuit” refers to native peoples of the Arctic and Sub-Arctic regions when specific tribal affiliation cannot be determined. Based on research, however, one can see the similarities that this knife shares with quite a few different, regional tribal locations. First, this knife shares a similar form, including a curved blade attached to a straight handle, with the Yupik people. This same knife style, however, was also emulated by a tribe much farther to the southeast, the Tahltan of British Columbia. Second, Native Alaskans made and continue to make many different types of knives. These curved blades are primarily employed in the carving of wood or bone in order to make tools, wearable items, or artwork. A curved, long blade would be much easier to use for carved items because of their ability to make precision cuts, rather than the Ulu knife, which is normally associated with the term “Alaskan knife.” Ulu knives are better suited to chopping and don’t have the carving power of a curved blade, such as the one in the Ethnology Collection would have.

Figure 2    "Inuit Ulu", Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Inuit_Ulu.JPG#/media/File:Inuit_Ulu.JPG
Figure 3 “Inuit Ulu”, Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Inuit_Ulu.JPG#/media/File:Inuit_Ulu.JPG

The knife in the Ethnology Collection also has a crooked sheath to go with the curved blade. The sheath is made out of leather, although it is unclear what animal hide was used to make the leather. Most similar blades either do not have their original sheath, or the sheath is made from another material such as wood or ivory.

While the specific identification of this knife is unknown, it is without a doubt from the Inuit peoples of the Arctic and Sub-Arctic regions of North America. It also illustrates an excellent example of how the form (the curved blade) of an object can directly relate to the function (precise carving).

[Connor Daggett]

 

Resources:

Museum of Inuit Art:

http://miamuseum.ca

British Museum, Arctic Peoples: http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/cultures/the_americas/arctic_peoples.aspx

Canadian Museum of History, First Peoples:

http://www.historymuseum.ca/exhibitions/online-exhibitions/first-peoples

The Dennos Museum Center, Inuit Gallery:

http://www.dennosmuseum.org/exhibitions/inuit/ 

 

 

Object: Sarangi

E_1954_9_3

E/1954/9/3 a-b
Sarangi musical instrument
Hindu
Asia: India
Early 20th Century
Materials: wood, metal, leather, sinew

This sarangi is a 26-stringed musical instrument made of dark stained cedar wood with a long wide neck and a short wide body. It has a white leather sounding platform and metal and gut strings. It is meant to be played with the accompanying bow, and it traditionally was used in Hindu classical music. This instrument has multiple internal chambers, typically 3-4 hollow chambers that help perpetuate the sound.

Musical tradition is very important in India. Children can learn musical tradition from a young age, becoming an apprentice to a master player. These musicians are respected in the broad public community as well as the religious sector.

The sarangi has been in India for as long as musical traditions have been present in the region. The instrument has deep-rooted cultural and religious significance. For instance, the sarangi is valuable to the Indian tradition of meditation, as its sound induces human concentration and religious thought. Vocal harmonies are extremely important in Hindu prayer in some regions of India, and the sound produced by the sarangi complements the human voice during religious performances, creating a more complete sound of praise.

While it is possible to make a sarangi out of gourds, the stringed instrument is traditionally crafted from cedar wood. The sarangi is analogous to the Western violin, as it is also a stringed and bowed instrument. One of the biggest and most obvious differences between the sarangi and the Western violin are the numbers of strings. The Indian sarangi usually contains thirty five to thirty seven strings (even though the example from the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History only has 26 strings) while the Western Classical violin contains only four strings. This instrument can be played standing up, but traditionally, the sarangi is played while sitting down on the ground cross-legged.

To learn more about the sarangi, take a look at this interesting video:

[Brady Leach]

References:

The Indian Sarangi: Sound of Affect, Site of Contest, Regula Burckhart Qureshi Yearbook for Traditional Music, Vol. 29 (1997), pp. 1-38

Napier, John. “The Distribution Of Authority In The Performance Of North Indian Vocal Music.” Ethnomusicology Forum 16.2 (2007): 271-301. Music Index.

 

Object: Feather Headdress

E/48/8/15
United States of America
1930′-1940s
Materials: Feathers, Leather, Dye, Glass Beads

This feather headdress was worn by one time University of Oklahoma mascot Little Red, who was mascot up until the early 1970s. He was a Native American and would wear tradition tribal dress and an iconic headdress known as a war bonnet. Little Red would perform on the sidelines at football and basketball games, and he would preform war dances when the team would score a touch down.

Little Red became controversial in the minds of many in the 1960s. The ethics of using a Native American as a sports team mascot became a subject of much debate at the University and in the greater Native American community. On the surface, the discussion appeared like it was between Indians and non-Indians, but the truth of the matter was it was far more complicated than that. This debate was centered in the Native community eventually bringing many Native families into odds with each other. Families and friends couldn’t agree on whether or not Little Red was an acceptable depiction of their culture. In the end, Little Red became the first Native American mascot to be removed from a college setting.

In the late 1960s, many groups began to petition for the removal of Little Red. The National Indian Youth Council, claimed that, “Little Red serves as a symbol of the physical oppression and cultural degradation that American Indians had faced in the past.” For all of those fighting against Little Red, there seemed to be just as devoted a crowd fighting for him.

Randy Palmer, in particular, was noted as being particularly invested in saving Little Red. The Daily Oklahoma reported that Palmer went so far as to run on field at the OU – Wisconsin game in September of the 1970 season, and preformed in the capacity of Little Red to an ecstatic crowd even though the mascot had already been banned. The controversy over Little Red is still relevant today. With discussions and disputes over mascots and team names in college and professional athletics taking center stage, it is important to remember all of the cases that have come before. It is important to remember Little Red. If you would like to learn more about some of the debate surrounding the topic of Indian mascots, watch the video below from a panel discussion at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian:

Work Cited

DeSpain, Matthew S.
2013  Little Red Died for Your Sins: Playing Indian at the University of Oklahoma and the Rise and Fall of Little Red. Native Matters The Journal of Native American Studies. http://66.147.244.221/~nativema/2013/04/11/50/

[Abbey Take]

Object: Stickball Sticks, and Balls

E/1947/3/2 a-c
Cherokee, Oklahoma
ca. 1940’s
Materials: Wood, rawhide, black thread, cloth, cotton

E/1959/7/12
Creek, Oklahoma
ca. 1940’s
Materials: Wood, rawhide

Ball sticks are used to play a Native American sport called stickball. Many tribes originally from the southeastern United States still play the two stick version of stickball including the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, and Yuchi. The manner in which points are earned varies depending on the tribe. Some versions involve a pole with a figure, sometimes a fish or a skull, at the top of the pole and points can be earned by hitting this figure. Other versions of the game allow differing amounts of points to be earned depending how high up the ball makes contact with the pole.

Stickball is much more than a pastime for Native Americans. Many tribes will play stickball preceding and on the same grounds they use to stomp dance, an activity that holds great religious and social meaning. There are two main variations of the game: one which is played exclusively by men and one which is played by both men and women. The game  played exclusively by men was used in the past to settle disputes between tribes, giving it the name “Little Brother of War”. The amount of players allowed to participate ranged from twenty to as many as three hundred with the playing field changing size accordingly. Though these games could result in serious injury and even multiple players’ deaths, it was preferred to the casualties that would have resulted from warfare. Once one side won there was no dispute or retaliation by the other side because of the respect this game commanded.

The other version of stickball involves women and men. The men use these sticks and the women use their hands. Men are not allowed to touch the women, but the women can use whatever means available to score a goal. These sticks are usually made out of hickory wood and are soaked in hot water before shaped and tied with rawhide that is also used for the netting. Women are not allowed to touch the sticks that men use in the version played exclusively by men against men. The balls are made out of many different materials. At the center of the ball is a hard object, sometimes a hickory nut, piece of wood, or rock that is then padded with deer hair and covered with rawhide. To learn more about stickball check out this video.

Work cited

Cherokee Nation.
2014 Cherokee Stomp Dance. http://www.cherokee.org/AboutTheNation/Culture/General/CherokeeStompDance.aspx

2014 Stickball(a ne jo di). http://www.cherokee.org/AboutTheNation/Culture/General/Stickball(anejodi).aspx

Choctaw Nation Cultural Services.
2013  Stickball Team – Tvshka Homma. http://www.choctawnationculture.com/cultural-events/stickball-team.aspx

Holmes, Baxter.
2011  Choctaw Stickball: A Fierce, Ancient Game Deep in Mississippi. Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/2011/oct/18/nation/la-na-choctaw-stickball-20111019

Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.
2011  Choctaw Stickball. http://www.choctaw.org/culture/stickball.html

UGA Toli Team.
2004  Variations of Stickball. http://toli.uga.edu/information/variations.html

[Mary Williams]

Object: Harpoon

E/91/2/11
North Alaska Inuit, Alaska, United States of America
Materials: Whale bone, Ivory, Wood, Leather

There are two types of heads for harpoons, the non-toggling head and the toggle head.  This harpoon is of the toggling type that was invented by ancestors of the Inuit people, and it continues to be modified and used today by hunters from all around the world. It is suggested that the toggling head was first used along the Bering Strait, the narrow passage between Alaska, Russia, and the Aleutian Island, but the exact origin is highly debated.  However, among the uncertainty there remains one consensus; it changed the way sea mammals would be hunted forever.  The technology emerged to enhance hunting techniques, because, in the original design, the non-toggling harpoon, the head was fixed to the end of the shaft.  This was effective, but the design was not perfect.  Even though the head was barbed, it could still be dislodged from the animal.  The toggling head was invented to resolve this problem.

In the toggle harpoon the head detaches from the weapon but remains connected to the harpoon by a leather line.  Once the head has penetrated the animal the separation allows the head to rotate and become more securely fixed under the hide.  This technique gives the hunter more leverage to pull the animal from the water and to remain attached until the animal becomes tired.  Additionally, when the head detaches from the weapon, the harpoon does not break against the ice when the animal dives back under the water.

The toggle harpoon has a long history of success.  Its earliest prototypes in 5500 BC began to improve the living conditions of the hunters and their families with its added efficiency, and the invention remained mostly the same until the 19th century.  In 1848 Lewis Temple, a former slave and blacksmith, revolutionized the technology with the addition of the iron head.  Since then, the makeup of the shafts and other parts of the bodies of harpoons continue to be modified, but the toggling head remains a constant in all of the new designs.  This Native American invention transformed sea mammal hunting and continues to thrive over 7,500 years later. To see a toggle head harpoon in action watch the movie below.

Work Cited

Fitzhugh, William W. ed J Prusinski
2004 Old Bering Sea Harpoon. Arctic Studies Center.http://www.mnh.si.edu/arctic/features/croads/ekven10.html

Forbes, Jack D.
2007   The American Discovery of Europe. University of Illinois Press. Ch. 6-7 http://books.google.com/books?id=09tmdIA6cDoC&pg=PA133&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=4#v=onepage&q&f=false
Glenbow Museum
National Park Service.
2008  Lewis Temple and His Impact on 19th Century Whaling. National Parks Traveler. http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/potw/lewis-temple-and-his-impact-19th-century-whaling
NOAA Ocean Media Center
2012   People of the Seal. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TuC2erWFlI
Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
N.D. Whale Harpoons, or Temple Toggle Irons. On the Water. http://amhistory.si.edu/onthewater/
[Madi Sussmann]

Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.

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