Sunday, November 22, 2009

S'abadeb - The Gifts

Cedar, cedar bark, paint, abalone shell and operculum shell
Private Collection

Barbara Brotherton, curator at the Seattle Museum of Art, and the curator of S'abadeb exhibit at the Royal BC Museum gave an interesting talk today. It was a very informative introduction to the exhibit. If you have a chance to see it, do.  

S'abadeb is a Lushootseed term for gifts and conveys the theme of reciprocity of giving and receiving gifts. Gifts both tangible and intangible such as songs and names.
I was lucky enough to have a few minutes chatting with her about Salish spinning, weaving spindle whorls and the wool dogs. She said that George Gibbs, a surveyor and a witness for the signing of the Point Elliot Treaty 1855 in Washington State, was given a wool dog 'Mutton' (he, that dog that is, liked to chase sheep) whose pelt was given to science and currently is in the Smithsonian Museum. She also mentioned a man who claimed he had a dog that was genetically very similar, a Japanese breed.  
My mother mentioned that when she worked with the BC Lands Title Office, where she often had to refer to surveyors records (organized diaries) she thinks she read that an island/s off Gabriola (Flat Top Islands?) was used to keep the dogs separate from non-wool dogs. 
So there are a few tips to follow up on. 
Googling, I came across an article,  'Wolly Dogs' by Elizabeth Flower Anderson Miller who has obviously researched this topic in detail. She suggests that the wool dog is the result of the recessive gene which causes the soft down hair (wool) to grow longer than the guard hair -- the Malamute factor, a lethal flaw for dogs that need to survive in very cold climates where guard hairs are needed to shed water, sleet, snow and ice. However, for the Gulf Islands/Salish Sea area, where snow rarely lasts two weeks of the year, this factor wouldn't be so lethal, rather it would provide much valued thick, long spinnable fibre. I'll do up a blog entry just for questions and answers about the Coast Salish wool dog.

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