02 Jan The history of blankets & their present use by Squamish & Lil’wat Nations
Blankets have a deeply woven history with Indigenous peoples in North America. Originally created from fur, animal hides, grasses or cedar bark, traders introduced blankets in the 1800s that were lighter and less bulky than traditionally-made blankets, becoming quick preferences amongst Indigenous peoples to make into dresses, skirts, leggings, and jackets. In the Northwest and Plateau areas, the many-coloured Pendleton blankets and shawls have long been favourites and worn in a variety of ways, both for comfort and for style.
In addition to their essential role as clothing, bedding, and protection, blankets were and continue to be elemental in ceremonial practices for Indigenous peoples. In particular to the Squamish and Lil’wat Nations, blankets are integral to ceremonial celebrations such as weddings (when people are blanketed together this signifies that they are now united as one heart, one mind), namings, coming of age, puberty rights, and funerals. If a person is blanketed individually and over their shoulders then they are being honoured – and blankets that are folded and cover half the wearer’s body (over left shoulder and under right arm, covering the heart to keep positive in and negative out) indicates that the wearer has been hired to work on behalf of the family hosting the ceremony.
Sometimes, people who are being honoured with a blanket around them are also stood on a blanket as this represents purity.
In honour of the longstanding connection Northwest Indigenous people have with Pendleton blankets, the SLCC Gift Shop carries a variety of designs to keep them readily available to both nations for ceremony. For the month of January, join us in store to purchase your own beautifully woven blanket (Pendleton, Kanata, Native Northwest, and Panabo) for 20% off.
Hungrywolf, Adolf. (2003) Traditional Dress: Knowledge & Methods of Old-Time Clothing (revised edition). Summertown, TN: Native Voices Book Publishing Company. (available in our gift shop)