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Bark Craft - Indians used the bark of trees for many purposes and were expert in making it into useful articles.  The inner bark of cedar, elm, and other trees was shredded, twisted, and spun or woven.  Certain tribes ate bark in the spring, the time of the greatest food scarcity.  Willow bark was smoked in ceremonial pipes.  A mixture of bark and tobacco was known as kinnikinnick.  Red cedar bark was used in secret society rites by the North Pacific Coast Indians.

The most valuable bark for the Indian was that of the white birch tree, which is found in the north woods of the United States.  From this he made his canoe, buckets, coverings for his wigwam, mats, pots and kettles for cooking with hot stones, and many other articles.  Juices of some barks were utilized as medicine.

Indians also used - and still use - the bark of the elm, basswood, popular, cottonwood, and the root of the wild cherry tree.  Basswood bark is especially valuable.  It is taken from the trunk of the standing tree, usually in strips about 4 inches wide.  The bark is first loosened by bounding on it, then a cut is made and it is pulled upward and outward. separating high in the tree.  The bark is soaked for about five days, after which time the inner bark can be peeled from the rough outer bark.  This inner bark is next separated into lacings by running the fingernail along the edge.  it must be wet when worked and in this state can be twisted into rope or twine, or used as a flat thong.  Good bark lacings also are made from slippery elm, hickory, white oak, red cedar, osage orange, and buckeye.

Some strong barks are used fro bowstrings.  The bark house was common to the Chippewa.  When they moved camp, the bark roof was rolled up and carried along.  They chopped down poles and made another house frame when they camped.  The Iroquois constructed their famous long houses from bark.  Bark also was used for floors, beds, and partitions in houses.

Related Information within this Site
[ Bags and Pouches ][ Baskets ][ Canoe ][ Costume ]
[ Dishes ][ Fishing ][ Glue ][ Iroquois ]
[ Kinnikinnick ][ Stone Boiling ][ Tobacco ][ Wigwam ]