Woodlands

The Woodlands cultural area stretches along the Atlantic seaboard, from the polar coast of Canada in the north to the tropical swamps of Florida in the south, and sprawls westward through the Great Lakes region to the Mississippi Valley. Beginning in the 16th century, European encroachment on Native lands and resources pressed Woodlands peoples north, south, and westward. The tremendous upheavals and migration caused by disease and warfare in this period loosened the ties of modern Woodlands people to their ancient predecessors.

Woman's Hood

Mi’kmaq (Micmac), Nova Scotia, Woman’s Hood, 1847–1853, trade cloth, silk ribbon, dyed ostrich feathers, glass beads. Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, NY. Photograph by Richard Walker.

The great deciduous forests of eastern North America were the primary sources of material for the exceptional wood carvings and baskets made by Woodlands cultures for thousands of years. However, European settlers introduced a variety of trade goods such as glass beads, silk ribbons, and woven cloth to the diverse Native peoples of the Woodlands, and these materials were incorporated into traditional works of art. This Mi’kmaq (Micmac) woman’s hood was presented to Lord Elgin, who was British governor general to Canada, during his stay from 1847 to 1853. It is an outstanding example of the ribbon appliqué technique developed by Mi’kmaq women in the early 1800s. Narrow bands of ribbon with straight, scalloped, and peaked edging required fine stitching. The bright ribbon provides a vibrant contrast to the black trade cloth, while colorful silk rosettes and the black-dyed ostrich feathers add an elegant flamboyance to the hood.

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