The other day, my family and i visited the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) in Vancouver, Canada. We took a tour and the curator showed us the three First Nation tribes we were going to looking at. The tribes were called Kwakwaka’wakw, Musqueam and Haida. My favourite tribe was the Kwakwaka’wakw because i like their style of carving and painting. The Musqueams carved realistically, the Kwakwaka’wakws carved deep into the wood, and the Haidas carved very flat. Musqueam means “the people of the river grass”. But they all carved from the same material – western red cedar. They also made totem poles. The Kwakwaka’wakw painted their sculptures all sorts of colors – light blue, red, black and more. Haida painted their sculptures red and black.
Then we looked at potlatch containers. Some potlatch containers were pretty ingenious, like a mythical snake with two heads and a tongue. The tongue was also a detachable spoon. In the spring and summer, the men hunted food, the women and children picked berries and stored them in the containers, so in the winter they didn’t have to find food. In the winter, potlatches were held. They were celebrations in which all the people in one tribe get together, told stories and feasted in the long house. But sometimes it was not a celebration, it was time to mourn when the chief died.
When somebody died, they put him/her in a bentwood box. And how they made a bentwood box was they had this plank and steamed it so that it would be easier to bend into a bentwood box. But there is still one side where the edges meet. How do you connect that side? Since they didn’t have nails they used spruce trees and cut them into small pegs and tied together the pegs, then they hammered one peg into one side and the other peg into the other side.
Then we looked at totem poles, I like totem poles a lot! One was about Mungo Martin, a Kwakwaka’wakw chief who helped the Kwakwaka’wakw people a lot when the Canadian government banned potlatches. But Mungo Martin kept making potlatch containers and never got caught. He told everybody to chill out. One totem poles was a talk-through Mungo Martin. If somebody had something important he/she would go behind the Mungo Martin statue and speak through a small hole so everybody could hear. It was almost like a microphone.
Then we checked out how the First Nations got around. Actually they didn’t walk much. They went around in boats, specifically canoes. The First Nation people were great canoe makers. Canoes could also haul thing like food. If it was something big like a cedar tree, they would tie together a few canoes and then they would lay the tree down on the boats. There was a sample canoe made by Bill Reid, a Haida artist.
The last thing we did was we looked at a sculpture called The Raven and The First Men made by Bill Reid too, this is my favorite sculpture in the whole museum. The sculpture was based on a story. In the beginning of the world, there was nothing besides a huge storm, dust rose in every direction. And after the storm, there was a raven on a beach, but on that beach there was something else. It was big shell. The raven walked over, and saw that inside there was something stirring. It wanted to talk to whatever was inside. The little people playing inside the shell saw the raven, got scared and closed the lid ever so tightly. The raven thought and thought. Suddenly, the raven came up with an idea – he used his communication skills and told the little people that there was nothing outside that would hurt them. So one by one, they came out. That was how the First Nations were created.
After that, we went to the longhouse exhibit outside. It was huge!
Almost everywhere I went after I visited the museum, I saw First Nation art work. I asked my parents to take some pictures, so at home I could draw them. I love going to the museum.