Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Many Uses of Cedar

Last week we took part in a program at a local museum to learn more about the many ways the local Musqueam people used the cedar tree. It's amazing how important it was to their way of life.

The above photo is of what a waterfront village may have looked like hundreds of years ago. The houses and story poles were all made with cedar.

This is some of their large collection of story poles...

...and there was an artist on site doing a carving demonstration, which the kids were quite interested in.

This canoe is decorated with some traditional coastal artwork.

Jay was very interested in this canoe, which the kids were allowed to touch and examine close up. It would have been hollowed out, and then filled with several inches of water and steaming hot rocks in order to steam the wood to make it more pliable. After a while, the sides of the canoe would then be spread to make it wider in the middle.

They made bentwood cooking boxes in a similar fashion, steaming a single piece of wood and bending it to make the four sides of a box. They would cook in them by dropping hot rocks into the box to heat the contents.

One of my favorite things that we saw were these bowls. Everyone got their own individual beautifully carved bowl when they were born, and they took it with them wherever they went throughout the rest of their lives.

Even more impressive was that they could even make various articles of clothing out of cedar. These hats are woven out of individual fibers of the inner bark. They were a particularly good thing to have in our rainy west coast weather, as the fibers would expand when they got damp, making the hats impervious to water.
It was an interesting field trip, and the kids enjoyed playing anthropologist, figuring out what various tools and artifacts were used for.
Our guide seemed a bit wary of the whole homeschooling thing to begin with, but she warmed up pretty quickly, and one of the moms even heard another employee say what a good group of kids they were.
I guess it was educational for all involved!


Tara said...

What an amazing field trip! The homeschool group we belong to is not as organized as yours- we meet once a week for open gym and then the library, but no field trips.
I have been brainstorming lately- trying to think of some interesting places for Owen and I to explore.
We plan to spend his birthday next week, at the children's museum in Portland.
Thanks for sharing such great photos and info.

Cheryl said...

Thanks, Tara.
We're lucky, our group is pretty organized. We meet early in the fall to plan the whole year (field trips, theme days, science/craft workshops, trips to the symphony, various plays, etc.), and that makes the rest of the year go pretty smoothly.
A day at the museum sounds like fun, I hope he has a great birthday!