Manataka American Indian Council

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Micmac Clothing

and Crafts

 

 

Before the European invasion, Micmac women wore fringed buckskin and fur robes similar to those worn by other woodland tribes.  But, in the seventeenth century, they began to wear pointed caps and wool clothing.  (Pictured left is Molly Muise and on the right is Sally Mitchell. Courtesy of the Museum of Nova Scotia.)

The Micmac utilized the materials at hand. They used animal bones, claws, shells, quills, hair, feathers, animal leather, clay, roots and bark.

For example, nothing was ever wasted from the moose. The Micmac ate the meat , blood and marrow then used the fur and hides for clothing. The brains were used for tanning hides. Strips of leather were used in making snowshoes. Antlers were turned into tools. Dew claws were made into rattles.  The shin bone of the moose was made into dice.  The hair of the moose was used in  creating embroidery thread.  The tendons became sewing thread.  Even the hoofs were used as an ingredient in a remedy for epilepsy.

The Micmac were intrigued by European trade goods.  Metal and cloth were incorporated into there style of clothing in the seventeenth century.



Mr. and Mrs. John Thomas, 1923



Mi'kmaq
QUILL WORK ON BIRCH BARK

by Gu'gu'gwes(White Owl)



The Micmac are often referred to as the "porcupine people" because of their intricate and elaborate quill work.  The artistic embellishment  was unusual and much sought after.

Quill work on bark is an ancient art.  In the Eastern Woodlands where the paper birch tree (Betula papyrifera) grows, natives traditionally made all kinds of things from this flexible bark including baskets, serving dishes, eating utensils, and even fans and headbands.  Micmac women softened the quills in their mouths and flattened the quills with their teeth. 

One design is the star with eight points.  Seven points were for the seven areas where the Micmac lived in New England.  The eighth point stood for Great Britain.  The star also represented an eight-legged starfish.

Quillwork of this type was developed almost entirely for sale or trade, and the Micmac appear to be the earliest documented makers of quilled bark native or otherwise.

Mi'kmaq family group; woman making a splint basket.  Possibly Tufts Cove, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.  Water color, pencil and ink by Hibbert Newton Binney (1766-1842).   This is the first known image of a wood splint basket.  The woman is using a chequer-weave (over one, under one); the vertical standards projecting from the top show that the basket is not yet complete. It appears to have a square base and, if she is following the traditional pattern, will have a circular rim. In front of the weaving woman is a circular lidded box made of birch bark rings wrapped with split spruce root, slipped over a plain birch bark liner. The lid top is decorated with a mosaic of porcupine quills, dyed different colors, with their ends inserted into the bark beneath. This little family group by Binney was also copied into various other works, by both local and foreign artists.


Text Credits:

Gu'gu'gwes(White Owl)

Ruth Holmes Whitehead (ELitekey) (pronounced čl-li-dey-geh) is a Micmac term meaning "I make things, I fashion things, I am a manufacturer of things.

 

Photo Credits:

http://museum.gov.ns.ca/mikmaq/index.htm

 

Related Micmac Web Sites:

Native Lore: MicMac Creation Story
Metepenagiag Where Spirits Live
- metepenagiag means"red banks"
Indigenous Environmental Network

Nova Scotia Museum, Halifax - http://museum.gov.ns.ca/mikmaq/mp0182.htm

 


 

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