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Museum collections sometimes present researchers with unanticipated objects; however, through careful research, close material examination, and an understanding of cultural-historical context, these material outliers may prove revealing. This paper examines one such anomaly: a Nuu-chah-nulth (NCN) First Nations’ dentalium-covered plaited cedar bark cape trimmed with mountain goat wool. Through ethnological contextualization, followed by analysis of the cape’s material, manufacture, and provenance, I use the cape to interpret power relations, colonial encounter, and NCN social organization at the turn of the century.

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Jan 1st, 12:00 AM

A Cape Covered in Wealth: Interpreting Colonial Encounter in Museum Collections

Museum collections sometimes present researchers with unanticipated objects; however, through careful research, close material examination, and an understanding of cultural-historical context, these material outliers may prove revealing. This paper examines one such anomaly: a Nuu-chah-nulth (NCN) First Nations’ dentalium-covered plaited cedar bark cape trimmed with mountain goat wool. Through ethnological contextualization, followed by analysis of the cape’s material, manufacture, and provenance, I use the cape to interpret power relations, colonial encounter, and NCN social organization at the turn of the century.

 

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