The New Brunswick Museum’s collections of Aboriginal craft document one small aspect of the ingenuity and adaptive capabilities of Wolastoqiyik. Expert woodworkers, canoe builders, toolmakers and artisans, they produced the durable, practical and reliable products needed to maintain their active lifestyle. Skilled technologists, they also produced traps, toboggans, snowshoes, paddles, axes, knives, nets, baskets, spears, bows, musical instruments, all manner of clothing and more. By the late 19th century, European settlement and changing technologies had disrupted the traditional way of life for the Aboriginal population of New Brunswick. Game began to disappear and it became necessary for Wolastoqiyik to trade for food, or to seek employment on farms, in the lumber camps or as guides. Others turned to the production of baskets that could be sold or traded for a more dependable source of income. Evidence of this relationship can be found in written accounts as well as in artifacts such as trade silver brooches or the decoratively woven fancy baskets that have come to be associated with Aboriginal cultures. As New Brunswick navigated the bumpy road of "progress" at the turn of the twentieth century, Wolastoqiyik struggled for survival. For the most part, Wolastoqiyik were excluded from jobs in the industrial economy. One area where they were able to find gainful employment, however, was as nature guides for the tourists who came in search of adventure, hunting and fishing in New Brunswick's hinterland.
Peter Larocque, Curator New Brunswick Cultural History & Art
New Brunswick Museum
New Brunswick, CANADA
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