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Chippewa Customs

Frances Densmore

Publication Year: 1979

Frances Densmore, born in 1867, was one of the first ethnologists to specialize in the study of American Indian music and culture. Her book, first published in 1929, remains an authoritative source for the tribal history, customs, legends, traditions, art, music, economy, and leisure activities of the Chippewa (Ojibway) Indians of the United States and Canada.

Published by: Minnesota Historical Society Press

Title Page, Copyright

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INTRODUCTION TO THE REPRINT EDITION

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pp. v-xiii

There is no more significant figure in the study of American Indian music and culture than Frances Densmore. Her study of the customs of Minnesota's largest group of Indian people developed as a part of her research on music. Although she was a musician by training, her interest did not stop with music...

LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL

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pp. III-

CONTENTS

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pp. V-VIII

ILLUSTRATIONS

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pp. IX-XII

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FOREWORD

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pp. 1-2

The present work is related in many respects to material already collected among the Chippewa.1 The study of tribal songs led to a friendliness with the people and a willingness on their part to give information concerning their customs....

INFORMANTS

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pp. 2-4

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SKETCH OF THE LIFE OF MARY WARREN ENGLISH

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pp. 4-5

Mrs. Mary Warren English (pI. 2, a), the writer's interpreter during a work which extended from 1907 to 1921, was born on Madeline Island in 1835. Her father was Lyman M. Warren, who was then in charge of the trading post of the American Fur Co. Her mother was...

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NAME OF TRIBE

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pp. 5-6

The name" Chippewa" is comparatively modern and is the only name under which the tribe has been designated by the Government in treaties and other negotiations, but it has never been adopted by the older members of the tribe. They still refer to themselves as...

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CHARACTERIZATION

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pp. 6-

While it is difficult to attribute one peculiarity to an entire tribe, it may safely be said that the Chippewa are a pleasant people. The older men and women are not lacking in dignity, but a ready smile and genial manner have, in the writer's experience, characterized...

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HISTORY OF THE CHIPPEWA TRIBE

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pp. 6-9

During the colonial period the Chippewa were remote from the frontier, but explorers and missionaries came into contact with them at an early date. History shows their prominence in transactions with the Hudson Bay Co. and the Northwest Fur Co. Although...

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TOTEMIC SYSTEM

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pp. 9-10

The word totem is irregularly derived from the term ototeman of the Chippewa and cognate Algonquian dialects. The stem of this word is ote, signifying a consanguine kinship, and the suffix m indicates a possessive relationship. Groups of persons having a blood...

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PHONETICS

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pp. 10-22

The vowels and consonants employed in this work do not represent every sound that occurs in the Chippewa language. Thus an obscure sound resembling h in the English alphabet sometimes occurs in the middle of a word and is not indicated. No attempt has...

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DWELLINGS

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pp. 22-28

The principal types of dwellings were the wigwam, the peaked lodge, the bark house and the tipi. To these may be added a conical lodge of evergreen boughs for temporary use....

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MANNER OF LIFE IN THE WIGWAM

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pp. 28-30

The winter habitation may be taken as representing the life in the wigwam, as at that time all the members of the family were usually at home. The family usually comprised two or three generations, living in a long wigwam with an entrance and a fire at each end,...

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CLOTHING

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pp. 30-39

(a) Materials.-The most primitive materials used as clothing by the Chippewas were tanned hides, the green leaves of plants, and a coth woven of nettle-stalk fiber. The latter was woven in "tubular form" like the yarn bags (pI. 67) and used for underskirts by the...

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FOOD

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pp. 39-44

The principal vegetable foods were wild rice, corn, and maple sugar. Rice was the staple article of food and was boiled in water or in broth, as well as parched. Corn was roasted in the husks or parched in a hot kettle, or dried and boiled. Pumpkins and squash...

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TREATMENT OF THE SICK

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pp. 44-46

Among the Chippewa, as among other tribes, the sick were treated by two different methods, one of which was entirely mental in its method, while the other employed material remedies.30 He who treated the sick without material remedies was called a djasakid...

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HEALTH MEASURES

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pp. 46-47

The following data collected from many individuals should be understood as representing the best ideals of the tribe rather than the practice of each individual or family:...

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LIFE CYCLE

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pp. 48-78

(a) Care of infarnts.-In the old days the Chippewa did not have large families, several informants stating that the average was two or three children. A mother had her infant constantly with her, and the daily relation between mother and child was closer than in the white race....

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DREAMS

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pp. 78-86

a) Signifioarnce of dreams.-In order to understand the character of the Chippewa we must take into consideration the influence of the dream on the life of the Indian. An aged Chippewa said: "In the old days our people had no education. They could not learn...

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MIDE'WIWIN (GRAND MEDICINE SOCIETY)

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pp. 86-97

(a) Beliefs and teachings.-The three principal informants on this subject were Gage'w'in, Main'gans, and Na'waji'bigo'kwe, all of whom were members of the Mide'w'iwin, and were in good standing at the time of giving their information. The study extended over a...

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STORIES AND LEGENDS

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pp. 97-106

Apart from the little stories told for the amusement of children, the stories or legends of the Chippewa may be divided into three classes: (1) Stories concerning the "first earth and its inhabitants," (2) stories concerning the adventures and doings of,,,

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MUSIC

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pp. 107-

This subject has received such extended consideration by the writer that repetition seems unnecessary. The drum is the only accompanying instrument except in the Miele and djasakid songs, when a rattle is sometimes used. The wooden flute in former times was...

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DANCES

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pp. 107-

The Chippewa, like other tribes, danced before they went to war and celebrated their victories in the scalp dance. Among their social dances were the begging dance, in which they went fr'om house to house, or tent to tent, begging food for a feast (Bull. 53, pp. 229...

CHARMS

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pp. 107-114

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GAMES

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pp. 114-119

Two classes of games were played by the Chippewa: (1) Games of chance, including the moccasin, hand, plate, snake, and stick games; and (2) games of dexterity, including the bone, bunch of grass, awl, woman's, and la crosse games....

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THE INDUSTRIAL YEAR

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pp. 119-131

(a) A narrative covering the entire cycle of the year is herewith presented and is followed by a detailed description of the several Chippewa industries, each of which had its appropriate season. The narrator is Nodinens (pI. 42), a member of the Mille Lac Band...

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CHIEFS

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pp. 131-132

According to the Handbook of American Indians "a chief may be generally defined as a political officer whose distinctive functions are to execute the ascertained will of a definite group of persons * * * and to conserve their customs, traditions, and religion. He...

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RIGHT OF REVENGE

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pp. 132-

It was a custom among the Chippewa that the relatives of a murdered man could avenge his death by killing the murderer or, if they wished, could adopt the murderer into their family. The chiefs did not interfere with this custom....

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CUSTOMS PERTAINING TO WAR

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pp. 132-135

Warning: A flute was used in giving a signal of danger to the village. It was played by a warrior, the intervals and manner of playing being different from that of the young men....

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TRANSPORTATION

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pp. 135-137

As the Chippewa lived along the lakes and watercourses their summer transportation was by canoe. The size of the canoes varied from the small canoes used by children or young people in going along the shore on such small trips as gathering berries up to the...

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METHODS OF MEASURING TIME, DISTANCE, AND QUANTITY

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pp. 137-

The native terms for these measurements are given on pages 17-19. By examination of these it will be noted that they are usually expressed in reference to the human body or to some manifestation of nature rather than in arbitrary terminology. Thus linear measurements are...

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EXCHANGE OF COMMODITIES WITHIN THE TRIBE

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pp. 137-138

The Chippewa were surrounded by sources of supply that were abundant for their needs, but among them, as in any community, some persons made better use of opportunities than did their companions. If a family had more than enough for their needs, they...

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PAYMENT OF ANNUITY

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pp. 138-140

Previous to the treaty of 1854 the Chippewa went to Madeline Island in Lake Superior to receive their annuities. The supplies to be distributed were brought in sailing vessels, the only vessels on Lake Superior at that time being the Algonquin and the John...

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TRADERS AND TRADING POSTS

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pp. 140-142

The oldest trading post of the American Fur Co. among the Chippewa was at Mackinaw Island, and a secondary post was established about 1825 on Madeline Island in Lake Superior. This post was in charge of Michel Cadotte, maternal grandfather of Mrs. Mary...

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FIRE MAKING AND USES OF FIRE

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pp. 142-143

A Chippewa said: "The greatest wonder that ever came to the Indians was fire. Like everything else, it came to them through the Mide. Some one asked, 'What do you want us to do with this?' A man replied, 'This is for warmth and for cooking.' The Indians...

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PIPES

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pp. 143-146

(a) Pipe bowls.-Stone pipe bowls were in use among the Chippewa at an early date, and it was said "they used to dig a hole in the stone for the tobacco." The writer obtained a pipe bowl of stone with a simple decoration of straight lines which belonged to...

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BOWS AND ARROWS

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pp. 146-147

The principal informants on this subject were En'dusogi'jig (pI. 48), a chief of the Mille Lac band, and Tom Skinaway, a blind member of that band. Both had been skillful workers in wood. Endusogijig said that in old days the Chippewa made bows from...

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SNOWSHOES

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pp. 147-149

Three sorts of snowshoes were used by the Chippewa in the United States, i. e., the round snowshoe, the "snowshoe with a tail," and the snowshoe with the toe turned up. All these consist of a wooden frame with netting in the open spaces. A Canadian Chippewa added...

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MAKING OF PITCH

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pp. 149-

A necessary commodity in the economic life of the Chippewa was the pitch used to cover the seams of articles made of birch bark, rendering them water-tight, and also used for torches. The gum of any evergreen tree could be used in making pitch, but Endusogijig...

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TORCHES

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pp. 149-150

(a) The most common torch was a piece of tightly twisted birch bark. The torch illustrated (pI. 56, a) is 15 inches long and it is said would burn while a person traveled about a mile. If it burned low it was brightened by lowering and shaking it a little, after...

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CANOES

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pp. 150-152

As the Chippewa traveled chiefly by water, the canoe was an article of great economic importance in the tribe. The size of the canoe varied according to its use, the largest canoes being capable of carrying more than 10 persons. The ordinary length was three double...

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TWINE

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pp. 152-154

In removing the bark from the tree an incision was made at a point as high as a man could reach, the cut descending straight to the ground, after which the bark was turned back in a sheet. It was then cut in lengthwise strips about 4 inches wide and laid among...

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FISH NETS

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pp. 154-

In early time the nets or seines were made of nettle-stalk twine, the lighter twine being used for the fish nets and the stronger twine used for tying the nets to the poles. Manufactured twine for fish nets was issued to the Chippewa with their annuities at an early...

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WEAVING OF MATS

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pp. 154-157

(a) Floor mats made of bulrushes (Scirpus validus Vahl). The rushes were gathered in large quantities and dried on slats in a field or hung from horizontal poles near the worker's house. These poles (seen at Mille Lac) were about 6 feet from the ground, supported...

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WEAVING OF BAGS

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pp. 157-159

(a) Bark.-In weaving bags the Chippewa used the inner bark of the cedar, basswood, and slippery elm. Woven cedar bags were formerly used for holding personal belongings and for storing wild rice, the latter use continuing to the present day. The strips of inner...

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WEAVING OF BANDS

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pp. 159-160

(a) Str'ips of cloth. -Every Chippewa woman carefully conserved the cloth obtained from the Government or from the trader, and from strips of old cloth she wove bands which were sewed into rugs for the floor of her dwelling. These rugs are sometimes seen at the...

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NETTING OF BELTS

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pp. 160-161

Belts made of yarn are the most common and characteristic among the Chippewa, and are usually about 9 inches wide and 2 yards or more in length. One of these belts was woven under the writer's observation, a portion of the yarn being colored with native dye....

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WEAVING OF BLANKETS OF RABBIT SKIN

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pp. 161-

Two methods of weaving rabbit-skin blankets were used by the Chippewa in northern and northeastern Minnesota and in Canada. In making one sort of blanket the rabbit skin was cut "round and round" in a narrow strip so that one hide made a continuous strip....

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WEAVING OF HEAD ORNAMENT OF MOOSE HAIR

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pp. 161-

A favorite dance ornament consisted of a roach of stiff moose hair which was woven in a long strip and then coiled and sewed into the ornament. In weaving this ornament a woman tied one end of a stout string to a post at a height of about 3 feet from the ground...

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BASKETRY

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pp. 162-

The making of baskets was not a highly developed art among the Chippewa, as the birch-bark makuk answered the purpose of a general carrier and was made more easily than a basket. It is said, however, that baskets were made of willow branches at an early date. The...

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POTTERY

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pp. 162-163

The older members of the tribe agree in stating that in former times their people made pottery and baked it in the fire. One informant said it was "made of clay and sand, mixed with a little glue."...

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USE OF DYES

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pp. 163-

Porcupine quills were the easiest material to dye and rushes were the hardest, sometimes requiring numerous "dippings" before the desired shade could be secured. Yarn and ravelings of blankets were among the materials most frequently dyed by the industrious Chippewa...

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TANNING

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pp. 163-165

(a) Preparaticm of hide.-Otter or other small skins were prepared as follows: The skinning was started at the hind quarters, the hide being drawn forward and the head left on the hide. This was then stretched on a frame. A long frame, as for an otter hide,...

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GLUE

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pp. 165-

An important aid in many forms of handicraft was glue, which was usually made from the sturgeon in the following manner: The cord was pulled out of the backbone of the fish, cut in pieces, and "fried" in a pan. While this was in the pan and warm, the Indian...

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MAKING OF MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS

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pp. 165-169

(a) Drum.- Two types of drum were in use among the old-time Chippewas, the hand drum, and the Mide drum. (See pp. 95, 96.) In recent years the Chippewa have used a large flat drum, either placed on the ground or suspended from curved stakes. This drum...

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ARTICLES MADE OF STONE

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pp. 169-

Ax. -A stone was fastened to a wooden handle by splitting the stick and binding the two parts tightly around the stone head with rawhide. (PI. 53, t.)...

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ARTICLES MADE OF BONE

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pp. 169-170

Needles. -The ribs of rather small animals were used in making the needles with which cat-tails were woven into mats. The small needles used in making the netting on showshoes were also made of bone....

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ARTICLES MADE OF WOOD

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pp. 170-171

The following data should be understood as representative of the method of wood making, rather than an enumeration of all the wooden articles used by the Chippewa. The principal tool used in woodwork (aside from the ax) was a curved knife. A man usually...

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ETCHING ON WOOD

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pp. 171-

The most common implement used in etching on wood was an awl, but any metal point or sharp stone could be used. Some informants said the awl was heated before the work was done, but a particularly reliable Chippewa said the lines were first graverr with...

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FIRE COLORATION AND ETCHING

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pp. 171-172

This form of decoration was used on pipestems, game implements, and other articles made of wood with a smooth surface. To scorch or "smoke" a piece of wood evenly was a difficult task, and was accomplished by holding the wood over a slow fire of green wood....

DECORATIVE USE OF GRASSES AND PORCUPINE QUILLS

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pp. 172-173

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APPLIQUE WORK

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pp. 173-

The materials commonly used in this work were colored ribbons. The work was done by laying ribbon of one color over ribbon of another color and cutting the upper ribbon in a pattern, turning the edges under and sewing them neatly in place. (PI. 78, u.) The...

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MEMORY DEVICES

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pp. 173-

A record of time was kept by notches in a stick. This might be a record of time after some important event, or might represent an entire year, a large notch being made for the day of a new moon and smaller notches for the intervening days (p. 119)....

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PICTURE WRITING

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pp. 174-183

Pictography is defined as "That form of thought writing which seeks to convey ideas by means of pictlire signs or marks more or less suggestive or imitative of the object or idea in mind. Significance, therefore, is an essential element of pictographs, which are...

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DECORATIVE ARTS

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pp. 183-

The materials available to the Chippewa for artistic expression were of a perishable nature and consisted chiefly of birch bark, reeds, and hides. To this, as well as to the custom of burying a man's possessions at the time of his death, is due the limited number of...

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DEVELOPMENT OF DESIGN

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pp. 183-188

(a) Geometric patterns.-All informants state that geometric and "line" patterns are older than floral designs. Nawajibigokwe made a " sampler " to show the simple line patterns and their combination in wider and more elaborate designs. (PI. 79.) The simplest pattern...

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PATTERNS CUT FROM BIRCH BARK

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pp. 188-190

Every Chippewa bead worker has a box of patterns cut from birch bark or paper. These are the units which she combines in forming her designs and are chiefly used in applied headwork, but could be used in etching on birch hark or any other decorative work....

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BEADWORK

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pp. 190-194

The first beads used by the Chippewa were obtained in small quantities from English traders. Later they were brought by American traders and were issued by the Government with annuities....

AUTHORITIES CITED

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pp. 195-196

INDEX [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 197-204


E-ISBN-13: 9780873516617
E-ISBN-10: 0873516613
Print-ISBN-13: 9780873511421
Print-ISBN-10: 0873511425

Page Count: 204
Illustrations: illustrations
Publication Year: 1979

Edition: 1