Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fishing Line and The Red Knife by William Kent Krueger


When I saw the word for the ESN theme of the week, “lines,” the first thing that came to my mind was “fishing line.” Being from Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, I do quite a little fishing so it should not be too surprising that I would think of fishing line. Minnesota is the land of fresh water fishing.

In the old days fishing was an important food source for the Ojibwa Indians. Northern Minnesota is the land of the Ojibwa (also known as Chippewa or more correctly known as Anishinabe) and I am a member of one of the tribes. Fishing was an important food source but we did not use hook and line. We used a net. Nearly every Indian carried a small net that he could roll out in the evening and could haul it back in the morning full of fish. The fish were cleaned, cooked and eaten or smoked for later use. Every fish was eaten, not just the best tasting ones.

Today nets are not allowed except in very special cases. I guess catching fish would be too easy using a net. We must use a hook and line. We can however, have the use of a gas powered motorized boat equipped with a remote controlled trolling motor, an electronic fish finder, and electronic GPS tracking equipment. We can use special graphite fishing rods with high quality fishing reels equipped with specially engineered fishing line. And, there is all manner of fishing lures to use. All very expensive of course! And, naturally, while fishing, one would want to be wearing his special all weather Eddy Bauer fishing clothes. All this, just to catch a few fish that most likely the Department of Natural Resources stocked there just for that purpose. Some people, if by chance, were to catch an especially large fish they might even have it stuffed for mounting on the wall. In other words, fishing has become very expensive.

It all seems a bit silly to me. I guess fishing has changed a lot since I was a kid. I still prefer to just sit in my chair at the end of my dock, cast out a hook baited with a dug-up worm or a captured grasshopper. In an hour I can catch a half dozen blue gills and maybe a big bass. Just enough to make one good meal! Maybe some day when my fishing rod and reel are worn out and useless I will mount “them” on the wall as a tribute to the number of meals it helped provide.4ec188aab45e4_24802n

Speaking of fishing and Indians, I will call your attention to a book that I have for sale in my curios shop. It is titled The Red Knife and is written by William Kent Krueger. Krueger is an exceptional mystery writer. Like all Krueger’s novels, The Red knife is a mystery and it takes place in Northern Minnesota. The main character, Corcoran O’Connor, is a private investigator and is part Ojibwa and in this novel much of the Ojibwa culture seeps through. Once you have read one of Krueger’s novels you will want to read them all. Stop in to Sirocco’s Curios shop and take a look around. There is more there than just books.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Vintage Gourd Canteen


Yesterday I went to a Native American auction. The auction was held at the Indian casino just a few miles from my Northern Minnesota cabin. Although the auction was advertised as a Native American auction, the auction was actually a mixture of old furniture, a lot of western horse tack, tobacco collectables and some Native American items.

I don’t usually buy much at such auctions. I just like to see what is there and what people are willing to pay. There are nearly always some fake Native American items. But, I did buy one item at this auction. It is a gourd canteen. It was advertised as from a Northwest coast tribe but no tribe name was given.

The gourd is straight and about 16 inches long. It is wide at the bottom end and narrow at the top end. It looks somewhat like a short plumped up baseball bat. There is a long leather strap made of harness leather that goes around the gourd the long way. The strap is decorated with sewn on cowry shells. Another strap is attached to the top and middle of the gourd. It is sewn in the middle and tacked at the top. The resulting loop is just long enough to hook the canteen over a saddle horn.

The cap is a leather cuff with a piece of the gourd sewn to the top. The cap fits snugly to the top of the gourd and could also be used a cup. The cap has two rows of green seed beads sewn around the bottom and two rows of red seed beads sewn around the top. There is also one row of white seed beads with a blue stripe sewn around the top. All of the beads are somewhat misshapen. The beads are probably Venetian and I believe the white beads with the blue stripe are somewhat rare. There is a little damage to the bead work but nothing too serious. It is evident the beads were sewn on with animal sinew.

I invite you to take a look at some of my own handiwork on display at Sirocco’s Trading Post on artfire.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

American Girl Doll Dream Catcher


Little Dream Catcher

This morning I was window shopping in Nancy’s Doll Closet, an eCrater on-line store. Nancy specializes in carrying clothes and accessories for the 18 inch American Girl Doll. My granddaughter loves those dolls and has at least two of them. Nancy is also a member of our ESN scavenger hunters club. We scavenger hunters look through each others store and try to find an item to blog about. The item must fit a theme, a theme that changes weekly.

The theme this week is “feathers” and while shopping in Nancy’s store I came across this cute little dream catcher sized for the 18 inch doll. It is complete with faux feathers.

I think most everyone knows the Native American dream catcher. While most all Indian tribes have some form the of the dream catcher in their culture, the dream catcher originated in the Ojibwa culture. Originally, dream catchers were small, only a couple of inches across. They were made by bending a thin willow branch into a circle and then using sinew to secure the circle and fabricate a web inside. It was then decorated with small feathers.

Hung on an infant’s cradleboard, it gave the infant something to focus on and play with. It also, as the legend goes, protected the sleeping baby from bad dreams. Bad dreams would be caught in the web while good dreams would pass down through the feathers. The legend changes a bit from tribe to tribe.

Today, the dream catcher is produced in every form one can think of. Some are large and hung on the wall or in a window. Small ones are hung from rearview mirrors or made into key ring embellishments, or, even used as Christmas ornaments. They are made into shapes like squares, triangles, or stars. They are used in jewelry as earrings, pendants, or bracelet charms. You find them embroidered onto T-shirts or sweatshirts. Some even tattoo them onto their skin.

I am always a bit amused that this little Ojibwa infant’s toy has become such a widely used element of artistic expression. The dream catcher in Nancy’s store is really cute. Take a look. Just click on the links above.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Preserve Feathers the Native American Way

Feathers x001

Feathers! “Feathers” is the ESN theme of the week and it is a theme that is right up my alley, so to speak. Being of Native American decent I know something about feathers. I routinely find bird feathers lying on the ground here at my Northern Minnesota outpost and of course I collect them up. The most common feathers that I find are black feathers either from a crow or a grackle. I also find feathers from the blue jay and a few from the red or yellow finch. The feathers at the left are some that I recently collected.

It is generally not recommended that one wash feathers in soap or detergent as the alkalinity of the solution can damage the feathers. I have, however, gently washed some in Woolite with no ill effects.

Feathers found in the wild can harbor microscopic organisms that slowly eat away at the feathers. One way to rid the feathers of such organisms is to put them in the freezer. It is an old Indian trick. I put them in the freezer for several days, take them out, brush them and then put back in the freezer again. I do this a few times and then finally store them in an aromatic cedar box.

Ultimately, I use the feathers to make adornments for Native American regalia. Such items are not for sale so you will not find them in my curios store but you can find this cute little pair of swan planters in my store. They are all covered with ceramic feathers. I do hope you will stop in to the Sirocco’s Curios store and take a peak at the planters and have a look around at all the curios for sale.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Metal Backed Lawn Chairs

ChairsOne thing we like to do at our north woods cabin is to sit out by the fire pit with a nice big fire going. We talk family issues, tell stories and make smores. We Native Americans are quite good story tellers, you know. Although in my case I am probably more of a bull shitter rather than a good story teller. Oh well!

What I don’t have is good chairs around the fire pit to sit on. I have some of those fold-up canvas chairs that work OK but I have to get them out and then put them back each time. I prefer something that can just stay out there all the time.

I had one old metal chair that I had repainted and that one worked out nicely so I decided the solution was to buy some old metal backed chairs and recondition them. I like working with my hands. I have been visiting garage sales, junk stores, and antiques shops looking for the old chairs.

So far I have found only three that I could get for a good price. I sanded them, primed them and painted them. You can see them in the picture. I think they came out quite good. They are all a different design and all a different color. I still need about three more. They are somewhat scarce though.

I invite you to visit Sirocco’s Trading Post where you will see some of my Native American handcrafted wares. Just click on the link.