SOUTH CENTRAL WING
INDIANS OF THE NORTH PACIFIC COAST
Here in the south central wing of the American Museum of Natural History are displayed specimens illustrating the culture of the Indians of the Northwest Coast of America and also of the Eskimo.
The most conspicuous object is the Haida canoe in the center of the hall. In it are figures representing a party of Chilkat Indians on their way to a potlatch. In the stern stands the chief, or medicine man, who is in charge of the ceremony. The canoe is a huge dugout made from a single tree; it is sixty-four feet long and eight feet wide. Immediately north of it will be found groups illustrating the home life and pursuits of the Kwakiutl Indians. Placed against the pillars and walls of the hall are many grotesquely carved house posts and totem poles. In some instances the carvings represent the coat of arms or the family tree, or illustrate a story or legend connected with the family.
The collections in this hall mof the American Museum of Natural History run from south to north; those on the east, or right-hand side, are from the Indians of the Interior; those on the west, or left-hand side, are from the Coast and Island Indians. The visitor is advised to begin at the lower right-hand side. Begin then with the Thompson River Indians. This collection includes a valuable series of baskets, noteworthy for its uniqueness of design and complexity of weaving. These peoples generally wore clothing of buckskin. The visitor will be interested in a group which illustrates members of the tribe engaged in tanning skins. Hunting and ceremonial objects also will prove of interest.
At the end of the next alcove will be found a collection from the Coast Salish, comprising articles of dress, basketry and ceremonial objects. The most conspicuous object, however, is a large blanket woven of goat's wool together with a primitive loom and other implements used in weaving.
Proceed to the Bella Coola group and examine the numerous ceremonial masks representing the deities of these peoples and the articles woven of spruce bark, used in their ceremonials, hunting and fishing implements and a series of dried fish used for food. Entering the section devoted to the Tsimshian, there is displayed a series of masks and rattles used in various ceremonials by the medicine men, or shamans. These masks differ from those of other tribes in being decorated with weasel skins and abalone shell. Note the articles of dress which are ornamented with the teeth and dewclaws of mammals. Continue to the Haida exhibit and view the specimens used in the house-hold, in fishing and in ceremonials. In the central case will be found a number of models of canoes and whalebone implements used in the preparation of cedar bark, which is used for garments, basketry and the sails of boats. In an-other case will be found a number of slate dishes carved with designs of animals and sea monsters, and in other places may be seen a number of masks and models of totem poles. Entering the corridor at the north end of the group, one finds the collections devoted to an exposition of Eskimo life.
Finely etched and carved pieces of ivory and crude but effective implements of the sea and chase predominate. Well-executed groups, representing the every-day life of these peoples, are installed in prominent positions. At the end of the corridor on the right is a collection of the principal building stones of the United States. Re-turn to the main hall, and on the right inspect the collections devoted to the
Tlingit, Kwakiutl and Nootka Indians respectively. The material from these peoples, it will be noted, is much finer in its technique than that from the other groups represented in this hall. Special attention is directed to the large collection of elaborately woven baskets in the Tlingit section, which are used in the household occupations of these peoples, to the wonderful examples of Chilkat blankets, woven from mountain goat's wool and cedar bark, and to the curiously formed and carved spoons of mountain goat horn in the same section. The conventionalized designs en-graved on wooden boxes are worthy of inspection, as are also the pipes, masks and carvers' tools.
Examine the cases containing the raw material, implements and finished product, which illustrate the weaving art of the Kwakiutl, and also the models of the primitive but effective traps used in fishing by these same peoples. In a nearby alcove the curiously designed whaling implements, seal clubs and fishing tackle of the Nootka are noteworthy. It is related that when Europeans first visited the Pacific Coast they found that the Nootka were the only people who attempted the hunting of whales and that it was the privilege and duty of the chiefs to throw the harpoon. The basketry work in this hall of the American Museum of Natural History is frequently used by artists and designers as patterns for symmetry and decoration.
The industries and ceremonies of the various tribes are faithfully reproduced in the mural decorations. The visitor now proceeds to the
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