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NW Coastal Native Button Blanket w/ Hunting Orca and Seal Motif Item # F5371
Button blankets are made by the Haida, Tlingit, Kwakiutl, and other Native nations of the Northwest Coast of America & Canada. The tradition began in the mid-19th century, when wool blankets acquired from the Hudson's Bay Company traders began to be decorated with abalone or dentalium shell buttons in elaborate patters, with felt appliqués in different colors.
Button blankets are traditionally worn like a cape during potlatches and while dancing in ceremonies. They are worn over the shoulders, with the crest design hanging on the back of the wearer. The central crest typically portrays a symbol of the wearer's clan and family heritage.
This exquisite example was made sometime around 1950, with the wool blanket of that period, but using mostly antique hand-made 19th-century shell buttons. It is likely that the buttons were heirloom, perhaps reclaimed from earlier blankets, and it may be that this blanket is in essence a re-making of a family's heirloom blanket that had deteriorated.
In any case, it is a stunningly beautiful work of art, depicting a fearsome hunting Orca whale chasing a pair of wily seals.
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NW Coastal Native Button Blanket w/ Hunting Orca and Seal Motif