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Dark blue button blanket with red border at top and sides. Main central image made of dentalium shells is a beaver. Triple rows of small buttons along most of red border.

History Of Use

Button robes may date back as early as the first decades of the 19th century, when wool blankets became available from Russian traders and the Hudson’s Bay Company. Materials like bright red and dark blue woollen cloth and mother-of-pearl buttons were readily absorbed into regalia-making, eventually replacing similar crest-bearing robes made of laboriously prepared hides or cedar bark. Similarly, using dentalium shells to create the applied designs was a technique transferred from earlier forms of ceremonial garments. Dentalia are the tusk-shaped shells of molluscs that live on the seafloor, beyond the tide line. They are found along the Pacific coast from Alaska to California; the Nuu-chah-nulth were known as the primary harvesters and traders of this precious commodity, traded for centuries throughout the Northwest Coast and as far inland as the Canadian Plateau. The shells have natural openings on either end, and so do not require modification to use as beads.

Iconographic Meaning

Crest image of a beaver with its patterned tail.

Item History

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