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First Nations Art and History

· Fine Book Collecting,First Nations,Art History,Nova Scotia,Quillwork

Over the years, I have acquired a number of books dealing with first nations art and history, both American and Canadian. I have always found them interesting and today, I am going to focus on Nova Scotia First Nations, and 3 specific books that are all quite different from one another.

Micmac Quillwork, Ruth Holmes Whitehead, The Nova Scotia Museum, Halifax,1982

Here is part of the description from our listing on Abebooks - The Micmac Indian women of Eastern Canada and New England have long been noted for their exquisite work in porcupine quills, particularly their mosaics of quills on birchbark. Micmac Quillwork, the first major work on this art form, falls naturally into three sections: a comprehensive history of the craft; materials, construction and ornamentation techniques; and an exhaustive record of quillwork designs. There is an extensive bibliography. Major collections in Canada, Great Britain and the United States were examined and catalogued; additional collections were researched in France, Ireland and as far away as New Zealand. Over 3,000 record photographs were taken, and from these have been chosen the 500 black-and-white illustrations and 32 colour plates, most of them never before published.

When the book was sold in March 2020, I was both sad and glad. Sad it was leaving Nova Scotia but glad that the book was going to a very good home and won’t be sitting on a bookshelf. It was bought by April Stone, who is a basket weaver, and a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (Ojibwe) from Wisconsin. She is a full time artisan who teaches classes and sells her baskets all over the Midwest. She taught herself to weave through reading books and studying baskets in museum collections. This book is in the right hands.

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Friends United, Rolf Bouman, (Ad)Venture Canada Publishing Inc., Aulds Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada, 2011

Here is part of the description from our listing on Abebooks - This art book featuring works by local first nation artists was written by Bouman, a German immigrant to Nova Scotia who prospered and built a strong relationship with the local first nations communities and as noted in the book, he employed a number of first nations people in his endeavours. The Germans have always had a fascination with North American Indians and this is evident in the preface by Bouman. This was a very expensive book to print with all black pages and a very sound construction and photos on the front and back covers. The contributions of reproductions are as follows – David J. Brooks, 62 works; Fancy Peterpaul, 44 works; Lorne A. Julien, 15 works; Chelsea Brooks (David’s daughter) 9 works; Darren Julian, 12 works, Amanda Julian, 5 works and each of these artists have signed the book. Norman Peterpaul, 6 works and Sandra Simon, 2 works, have not signed the book. David J. Brooks, who passed away in 2014, is the best- known artist with his works in many galleries and institutions, including the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

The art in this book is so spectacular that the first copy I found went into the personal library. I wish I could post many more of the pictures in the book as they are thoughtful, imaginative and perfectly executed.

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Niniskamijinaqik – Ancestral Images: The Mi’kmaq in Art and Photography, Ruth Holmes Whitehead, The Nova Scotia Museum, Halifax, 2015

We just acquired this book several days ago, which lead to the creation of this musing. Please note that this book was written by the same person who wrote the first book, noted above. This work was written 33 years later then the first and “Micmac” became “Mi’kmaq”. The opening images in this collection were created by the Mi’kmaq themselves: portrayals of human beings carved into the rock formations of Nova Scotia. Then there are the earliest surviving European depictions of Mi’kmaq, decorations on the maps of Samuel Champlain. Then the book focused on drawings and photographs of individuals. The 94 reproductions were chosen from more than a thousand extant portraits surviving in different media.

This is a very hard to put down volume. Absolutely fascinating.

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Three different lenses through which we get to appreciate the people who called Nova Scotia
home before anyone else.