American Native Arts and Antiques

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Birch Bark: Once Again

Rabbit Smoking Pipe, Mukuk - Chief Barry Dana, Penobscot
Iroquois Doll Cradleboard - Paul St John, Mohawk
Birch Bark Box w/Porcupine quill designs - Martin Dana, Passamaquoddy

Birch bark is used by Native Americans/First Nations from Alaska throughout Canada to Maine, the Great Lakes regions and most places where birch trees grow. In an earlier news item. “Birch Bark: Most versatile, valuable material of the Wabanakis” many pre-European contact uses were detailed. In that article current Wabanaki birch bark artists were mentioned. In this news item the focus will be on birch bark as an artist’s medium, less functional more salable. There are many ways birch bark has sustained the more Northern Native American peoples through trade and sales.

PHOTOS ABOVE

  1. Rabbit Smoking Pipe, Mukuk - Chief Barry Dana, Penobscot available in the "Current Maine Indian Arts -subcategory Birch Bark" section of the store on this website New Smoking Rabbit Mukuk

  2. Iroquois Doll Cradleboard - Paul St John, Mohawk available at American Native_Downeast, an ebay store - NE Birchbark Doll Cradle

  3. Birch Bark Box w/Porcupine quill designs - Martin Dana, Passamaquoddy available in the "Current Maine Indian Arts -subcategory Birch Bark" section of the store on this website New Birch Bark Box

Birch bark can be a medium for designs …. the bark can be scraped - ever so carefully so that the lighter area below shows through. And any design can be drawn on it if the artist is skilled enough. Porcupine quills, natural color and dyed can be sewn onto birch bark and the effect is often stunning.

To make salable items, some traditional uses for birch bark, such as the making of Iroquois and Cree/Ojibwe cradleboards and the traditional mukuk containers have been scaled down to doll or miniature sizes. Three examples are shown above, first is a vintage miniature mukuk. A mukuk is a traditional large container for food stuffs, tools and more. Second is the current miniature mukuk by Chief Barry Dana, Penobscot. The third is a doll cradleboard by Paul St John, Mohawk

Other birch bark items made for sale have no traditional usage roots, but traditional techniques and designs applied to items such as picture frames. Shown is a quilled birchbark picture frame by Paul St John, Mohawk.

Birch bark backpacks, fishing creels and boxes are items made for sale the same way as they were for traditional usage. The example shown is a quilled box by Martin Dana, Passamaquoddy. These smaller birch bark boxes/containers traditionally held smaller food stuffs such as medicinal herbs, household items like sewing awls, personal beaded or quilled jewelry and porcupine quills and perhaps other small tools.