Art: Northwest Coastal Native Bentwood Box

Northwest Coastal Native Americans were highly skilled in carving canoes, weaving baskets, hats and making bentwood cedar boxes for storage. The various Northwest Native American peoples held a potlach to commemorate status, celebrate dedications and mark events to celebrate and/or confirm ancestry. On this bentwood box sketch a bear and whale are represented. Making bentwood boxes was an art-form in which yellow or red cedar was steamed and bent from a single plank scraped with an adz and smoothed into a certain thickness, with grooves with three cuts at right angles, steamed and bent along the grooves to form a four sided box, the fourth side being tied and sealed with clam paste. The bottom and lids were made separately, and these boxes were so water tight, they could hold fish oil. Many of these boxes were both carved and painted while some were just painted or carved. They were often used to keep treasured objects that were often given away at a potlach.

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