For thousands of years, Wolastoqiyik lived with the river, the sea, the animals, the land and the trees in a respectful way. This interrelationship worked for everything and everyone living. In this way of life, all that was needed for survival was there in the valley and Wolastoq for which they named themselves.

Food was gathered, grown and hunted in the forest. It was fished in the brooks, river and sea. The tools, traps and weapons needed for these activities were made by skilled hands, taught for generations by other skilled hands. The transportation to these activity places was made possible by birch-bark canoes, also made by those skilled hands. They used, not just the birch, but also cedar, maple, and spruce to make this vehicle. The canoe maker exemplified how diverse materials were used to their best advantage.

Hands which transformed the materials from nature into usable objects reflected the philosophy that everything had a purpose. Purposeful objects however did not have to be plain and ordinary. Nature itself was beautiful. Created objects could also be that way. Numerous patterns and colors were chosen from the world around. Some of them becam Read More
For thousands of years, Wolastoqiyik lived with the river, the sea, the animals, the land and the trees in a respectful way. This interrelationship worked for everything and everyone living. In this way of life, all that was needed for survival was there in the valley and Wolastoq for which they named themselves.

Food was gathered, grown and hunted in the forest. It was fished in the brooks, river and sea. The tools, traps and weapons needed for these activities were made by skilled hands, taught for generations by other skilled hands. The transportation to these activity places was made possible by birch-bark canoes, also made by those skilled hands. They used, not just the birch, but also cedar, maple, and spruce to make this vehicle. The canoe maker exemplified how diverse materials were used to their best advantage.

Hands which transformed the materials from nature into usable objects reflected the philosophy that everything had a purpose. Purposeful objects however did not have to be plain and ordinary. Nature itself was beautiful. Created objects could also be that way. Numerous patterns and colors were chosen from the world around. Some of them became family, group or tribal designs.

The enduring quality of created objects was also of prime importance. It ensured that resources were not exploited, or time and materials wasted. Taking only what was needed honored the land.

The relationship to animals was similar, but because the animal had to die, ceremonies of prayer and offerings were made to its spirit. Right relationship; from the hunter to the consumer, and from the creator to the wearer; had to exist. No waste occurred and unusable parts were returned to the Earth in gratitude. All had to flow with the creative force of the universe.

Even today, that is true. Handling the natural spirit was, and still is, an honor. The way of life changed, so did the needs of the people. No longer are the trees and animals so important to Wolastoq survival. Today’s creations are more aesthetic. The crafts-people and artists of today are, however rediscovering and reintegrating those enduring values held by the ancestors. The baskets are functional and beautiful. The beadwork is as colorful and harmonious as Creator’s web of life, and like the wampum of the past, each bead holds a prayer. Ancestral designs still inspire today’s birchbark craftsman to carry the same message to the future…. “We are Wolastoq”.
In The Spirit of Mother Earth
Schmidt, Jeremy
1994 McQuiston & McQuiston
San Francisco

Expressive Culture
Akwe: Kon Journal
1994 Cornell University
Vol. XI, Nos 3 & 4, Ithaca; New York

Unbroken Circles
Northeast Indian Quarterly 1990
VII, No 4, Winter

Encyclopedia of American Indian Costume
Paternak, Josephine
1994 WW Norton & Co. Inc.
New York; New York

The Sacred
Beck, Peggy V; Francisco, Nia; Walters, Anna Lee
1977 Navajo Community College Press
Tsaile, Arizona

The Wabenakis of Maine & the Maritimes
1989 American Friends Committee

© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.

The decorative traditions of Wolastoqiyik derive from a sensitivity and appreciation of the natural environment and a profound understanding of materials and techniques. When combined with great skill, superior design and excellent artisanship, these elements produce objects of great beauty and complexity. The collection of Wolastoqew objects at the New Brunswick Museum permit some specific observations about these creative traditions.

Many objects, both functional and ornamental, have some form of surface modification. In general terms, on many Wolastoqew objects the borders or edges appear to receive much of the attention for detailed decoration. This method provides a striking visual contrast when there are larger areas of plain colour on the objects. Sinuous, naturalistic motifs based on plants and animals in combination with geometric patterns are the most usual elements incorporated into the design. Sometimes, realistically rendered figures and/or scenes are also incorporated into the composition. Within the designs themselves, motifs are often repeated or modified to fit the particular shape of the object. On many different objects, whether they are made of clot Read More
The decorative traditions of Wolastoqiyik derive from a sensitivity and appreciation of the natural environment and a profound understanding of materials and techniques. When combined with great skill, superior design and excellent artisanship, these elements produce objects of great beauty and complexity. The collection of Wolastoqew objects at the New Brunswick Museum permit some specific observations about these creative traditions.

Many objects, both functional and ornamental, have some form of surface modification. In general terms, on many Wolastoqew objects the borders or edges appear to receive much of the attention for detailed decoration. This method provides a striking visual contrast when there are larger areas of plain colour on the objects. Sinuous, naturalistic motifs based on plants and animals in combination with geometric patterns are the most usual elements incorporated into the design. Sometimes, realistically rendered figures and/or scenes are also incorporated into the composition. Within the designs themselves, motifs are often repeated or modified to fit the particular shape of the object. On many different objects, whether they are made of cloth, birch bark or wood, the double-curve motif is often present.

In beadwork, densely worked areas with hundreds or thousands of glass beads in multiple colours decorate the edges, pockets, frontlets, cuffs and collars of clothing. Sometimes geometric patterns are appliquéd in wool or silk. Some beadwork incorporates smaller motifs that are first worked on small, shaped pieces of paper that are then sewn down onto the clothing items. Containers made of birch bark are made by turning the bark inside-out and exposing the dark inner layer. This dark layer can be incised or scraped away to expose a lighter layer beneath. On wooden paddles, pipe stems and the handles of splint gauges, designs are engraved lightly into the surface and then filled with pigment, usually red or black. Crooked knife handles and pipe bowls bas-relief carvings of animals are combined with incised geometric patterns.

Wolastoqew basketry exhibits great skill in the plaiting, weaving and shaping of the baskets. A variety of plaiting techniques including chequer (checker), hexagonal (snowshoe), twill and wicker have been identified. Decorative surface weaves, where the baskets’ horizontal splints are twisted or modified include: lace, ribbon candy, standard diamond (plain), thistle (porcupine) and wart (pimple, periwinkle, shell or jikajidg). Sometimes the patterns are created by weaving with splints that are dyed using a variety of contrasting colours. Occasionally some baskets have been decorated using a stamping technique or by painting some of the splints as well.

The beauty of each of these finely-worked objects is a testament to the continuation of craft traditions and knowledge that have been shared for thousands of years. This excellence of artistry clearly demonstrates the integrity of Wolastoqew culture and the strong intellectual, spiritual and emotional connections symbolized by the objects they made.

© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.

Birchbark Box

box, c. 1850, First Nations; Wolastoqiyik

Sarah Sacobie, c. 1812-1909
Gift of Stella Gunter, 1927

New Brunswick, CANADA
10877
© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Ronald Paul discusses the uses of black ash and other materials

We’d make chairs out of alders, maple, willow and bark, birchbark, cedar. A lot easier to work with when they’re green. And baskets, we’d make chair bottoms and backs. You know black ash is something that you can use it on almost for everything. Everything, I mean everything, hell it’s just like string. Can tie things with it, baskets, and put the chairs together, and hold everything together and brace it.

Courtesy of Ronald Paul

New Brunswick, CANADA
© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Beadwork Frontlet

frontlet, 1884-1888, First Nations; Wolastoqiyik

Attributed to Mary Acquin
Gift of the Estate of Sir John Douglas Hazen, 1959, photographed by W. Mark Polchies

New Brunswick, CANADA
1959.88.2B
© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Beadwork Box

box, c. 1900, First Nations; Wolastoqiyik

Unknown
Gift of Mary Quartley, in memory of Beatrice Wiggins (Lunnin), 1998

New Brunswick, CANADA
1998.7
© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Wolastoqiyik Chieftan's Regalia

Reproduction Wolastoqiyik Chieftain’s Regalia, 1760-1780

Reproduction made in 1987 by Jan Vuori with the assistance of Chris Paulocik at CCI, Ottawa

New Brunswick, CANADA
1983.47.2
© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Ronald Paul discusses the harvest and many uses of black ash

You know black ash is something that you can use it on almost for everything. Everything, I mean everything, hell it’s just like string. Can tie things with it, make baskets, and put the chairs together, and hold everything together and brace it.  Old women, old women, we used to watch them. They used to cut them strips, little narrow strips, just about the size of a shoelace, long strands then they’d hook it on and get a basket hoop and they held it and then they laced it all the way around. The basket never contained no nails, they just wove it around. They’d take two sticks and they put them together they wove all the way around, they’d get to the handle, they pull the handle down and they lace it back and forth and then they go around it again. Baskets always has double bottoms because they had lot of wear and tear on them, made them hard to work with.

Courtesy of Ronald Paul

New Brunswick, CANADA
© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Thistle Weave Basket

Basket, c. 1890, thistle weave, First Nations; Wolastoqiyik

Unknown
Gift of Grace W. Leavitt, 1907, photographed by W. Mark Polchies

New Brunswick, CANADA
5090
© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Maurice Sacobie discusses making baskets

Well I stayed with Marjorie Perley there for quite awhile. I decided to make baskets and she said, “I’ll help you.” I know how to do it, eh, but the basic things I really had to have help. She said, “I’ll help you then.” I got my ash all together and she, she helped me with the little things and I, it didn’t take me long, because thinking back what my uncles were doing I could see them, eh, I could see the patterns of the baskets they were doing. I could see. That’s how I worked on it, eh. I went on from there. I got so I could make, well, anything then. I don’t know about now, I’m kind of a little rusty.

Courtesy of Maurice Sacobie

New Brunswick, CANADA
© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Wart Weave Basket

basket: Strawberry, c. 1900, wart weave, First Nations; Wolastoqiyik

Unknown
Photographed by W. Mark Polchies

New Brunswick, CANADA
5685.5
© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Ronald Paul discusses the uses of baskets

They had baskets for everything, I mean everything. They had baskets about the size of this table, three or four feet wide, big handles, and they had them straps under there so you could slide them around. Baskets were for cargo and for fruits and vegetables. It’s just like the barrels today. And they had them melon baskets for cucumbers and tomatoes and everything. They’re shaped like a big watermelon!

Courtesy of Ronald Paul

New Brunswick, CANADA
© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

Art of the Land Learning Object is designed for students and educators to meet the following objectives:

  • assess and apply complex image development techniques
  • produce an original body of artwork that integrates information from a variety of sources to convey personal meaning
  • create artwork that communicates intentions
  • analyse and use complex visual relationships, processes, and content, making subtle discriminations 
  • explain how biodiversity of an ecosystem contributes to its sustainability 
  • select, compile, and display evidence and information from various sources, in different formats, to support a given view in a presentation about ecosystem change 
  • communicate questions, ideas, and intentions, and receive, interpret, understand, support, and respond to the ideas of others in preparing a report about ecosystem change 
  • investigate how artistic and literary expression reflects the following aspects of Canadian identity: landscape, climate, history, people-citizenship, and related challenges and opportunities 
  • portray their personal understanding of Canadian identity
  • analyse the factors that contribute to the perception of self and the development of a world view 
  • explain why cultures develop various expressions of material and non-material culture 
  • give precise instructions, follow directions accurately, and respond thoughtfully to complex questions 
  • use writing and other ways of representing to: extend ideas and experiences, reflect on their feelings, values, and attitudes, describe and evaluate their learning processes and strategies 
  • demonstrate commitment to crafting pieces of writing and other representations

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