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Totem Pole by James Bender at Pike Place Market (#72: 15046 bytes) 

The Sacred Cedar

"From birth to death, the wood, bark, branches, and leaves of the mystical, powerful cedar tree provided generously for the needs of the people of the Northwest Coast—materially, ceremonially, and medicinally….When food was abundant, the people enriched their spiritual lives with ceremony, ritual, dancing, drumming, singing and myth telling. They enhanced their material lives with sumptuous feasts, drama, gambling, games and lavish gift giving. They embellished all areas of their lives with a marvelous creativity that included intricately woven and ornamented baskets, hats and. dance blankets; finely carved and painted masks made in the images of birds, animals and supernatural, mythical creatures; large storage chests, carved or painted (sometimes both) with complex and sophisticated designs; rattles and drums painted with animal figures, and wide plank dance screens elaborately designed with crests and mythical creatures. Canoe-sized wooden bowls and enormous ladles were used to serve quantities of food to great numbers of visiting guests accommodated din huge houses, and the feasting often lasted for days or weeks. A high-ranking chief arrayed his prized possessions in a conspicuous display of wealth calculated to impress his rivals as well as maintain and enhance his status….The marine-oriented peoples of the Northwest Coast dwelt on the fringes of the great evergreen forests and were encompassed by a mystic world of spirit beings. They held the supernatural cedar in high esteem, for, like the bountiful salmon of the sea, the ubiquitous tree of the forest gave of itself to sustain and enrich their lives."

Cedar: Tree of Life to the Northwest Coast Indians, by Hillary Stewart

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2009 Chief Seattle Arts
Last modified: October 24, 2022