Date of this Version
Published in The Social Fabric: Deep Local to Pan Global; Proceedings of the Textile Society of America 16th Biennial Symposium. Presented at Vancouver, BC, Canada; September 19 – 23, 2018. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/tsaconf/
Coast Salish textiles are: remarkable for their quality; unusual in the fibres used; notable in their designs; singular in the innovative processes used to manufacture them. Salish textiles were determined by geography, shaped by trade, and influenced by colonization. That the textile tradition has survived is a reflection of the prestige they hold and the importance of the textiles in the Coast Salish culture. Relatively unknown and underappreciated, the older textiles deserve to be looked at with fresh eyes and modern methods that bring to light the outstanding abilities of the Coast Salish women in the creation of these important textiles. This paper looks at older blankets and robes in museum collections in Europe and North America and reviews the problems experienced in identifying the fibres used. In the last ten years or so, newer techniques such as scanning electron microscopes and proteomics have been developed that help identify the fibres used and allow us to look more closely at how the threads were created. Some of the surprising results have: verified oral histories of the use of Coast Salish woolly dog wool; demonstrated the importance of resource exploitation, textile technology, social networks and trade; shown changing techniques over time; and exposed the cultural importance of spinning and weaving spiritual protection into the textiles. A select number of textiles will be reviewed that demonstrate the types of textiles and their cultural importance; the fibres used including cedar, stinging nettles, the Coast Salish woolly dog wool, down feathers, cattail and fireweed fluff, and mountain goat; along with the different techniques and tools used to create the threads, and the stories of the fibres used.