Artifacts

Bentwood Box
ITEM: NMEMG 1923_3_3
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This Bentwood Box has been attributed to the Kwakwaka’wakw tribe due to the use of red cedar and the bold, less symmetrical design. Likely to be a model of a box made in three sections with a cover. The bentwood box was a principle piece of furniture for houses on the Northwest Coast and had a number of uses as seats, cupboards, containers for food and water and even urinals or coffins. Some boxes were built for high ranking tribal members to store ceremonial regalia.¬†Boxes were stacked along the walls of the cedar wood plank houses.

Tribes of the Northwest coast were particularly artistic as objects of everyday use were elaborately decorated. Red cedar was available in abundance on the Northwest coast enabling tribes to build canoes, houses and household objects. As the natural source was vital in everyday lives, it was treated with great respect. It has been noted that some people spoke to the tree when cutting it down ensuring that the use of red cedar was essential in order to make something beautiful and utilisable (King, 1999, p.152).

Native artists continue to make bentwood boxes today. The bent corner box was a typical object of collection and trade, and Holm (1983, p.65) has stated, “Most collectors have at least one bentcorner box, without one the culture is not truly represented”.