Saturday, August 14, 2010

Effigy Canes

Shown here are two original Native American made canes. Each is made from solid pieces of hickory sapling, the carvings are applied to the burled root ball. It took me a great while to figure out the species of wood, I asked many wood experts and walked away with either shrugs or 20 different suggestions. Saplings, like most infants, have only subtle clues as to their identity. My answer finally came while researching Indian canes, it was stated that hickory saplings were a preferred species for making canes and that when dug out by the root, hickory often had a burled swell just below ground level. I checked my own wood nearby and indeed, hickory saplings no larger than the diameter of your thumb do have a small root burl. (My apologies for not being able to site the text as to where I found this information. If anyone should know the reference I would appreciate hearing from you so that I might include here the source.)

The cane on the right still has a majority of it's bark intact. The eyes are inlaid seed beads and both ears lobes have been drilled to accept an earring. The effigy is carved with a Mohawk hair style, (this served as the inspiration for the same feature for my carving titled, Hoyaneh.) There are several examples to be found of canes with like effigy heads and are often attributed to the Iroquois People. It displays great age and patina, and could possibly be as early as the 18th century, but patina alone should never be the criteria used to determine age. This cane was found at the Paris flea market in 2006.

The cane on the left I speculate was made during the 19th century but that too is only a guess. The eagle head has a strong similarity to the eagle effigy bowl in the Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnicity; item #28-16-10/98291, Collected in 1865 and attributed to the Lakota; Blackfoot, Siksika. Like the Iroquois, the Lakota have a documented tradition of making canes.

The use of a hot file was used to color scorch the wood giving definition to the features. I'm confident a file was used as the nostrils in the beak are oblong-square and are the same size as is the tang of a file.

At one time this cane was painted all over with semi-translucent red paint, there is still paint to be found in the eyes and elsewhere along the shaft. Thankfully, whoever stripped the paint did a careful job as I still find signs of the original patina. However, as gaudy as it might have been, I would have preferred it had been left alone.

By whom, when and especially why was this cane painted red? If the maker painted it, why then go to the trouble of scorch decorating the wood just to paint it over? While researching canes I ran across an interesting bit of Indian cane "lore" that said when a warrior grew old, he traded his club for a cane. A quaint thought and most likely just a romantic waxing of words.

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