Bark Shredders

Northwest Coast Indigenous peoples used various styles of bark shredders to soften cedar bark into fibrous layers.

Written by Amelia Fay

Posted March 11, 2019

Northwest Coast Indigenous peoples used various styles of bark shredders to help soften cedar bark into fibrous layers that could then be further processed to make baskets, ropes, or woven capes and clothing.

The shorter shredder shown here is a Nuu-chah-nulth tool carved from whalebone. It has a softer edge than the longer wooden variety from the Nuxalk Nation.

The west coast of Vancouver Island is Nuu-chah-nulth territory and is known for whaling and fishing, while Nuxalk territory encompasses areas in and around Bella Coola on the north-central coast of mainland British Columbia.

Both of these shredders would have served similar purposes, although perhaps the rounded edge on the Nuu-chah-nulth whalebone shredder was reserved for fine finishing work.

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Amelia Fay is the curator of the HBC Collection at the Manitoba Museum.

This article originally appeared in the April-May 2019 issue of Canada’s History.

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