Robes of Power: Totem Poles on Cloth by Doreen Kensen & Polly Sargent

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Robes of Power: Totem Poles on Cloth by Doreen Kensen and Polly Sargent
Chief Researcher: Jean McLaughlin
Foreword by Michael M. Ames


8vo. pp. [8], 86. illustrated in colour & b/w. bibliography. paperback wrs. Vancouver: The University of British Columbia in association with the UBC Museum of Anthropology, 1993.



Museum Note No. 17.

ISBN-10: 0774802642 / ISBN-13: 9780774802642


The button blanket is eye-catching, prestigious and treasured--one of the most spectacular embellishments to the Indian culture of the Northwest Coast and a unique form of graphic and narrative art. The traditional crest-style robe is the sister of the totem pole and, like the pole, proclaims hereditary rights, obligations and powers. Unlike the pole, about which countless books and papers have been written, the button blanket has no chroniclers.

This is not only the first major publication to focus on button blankets but also the first oral history about them and their place in the culture of the Northwest Coast. Those interviewed include speakers form six of the seven major Northwest Coast Indian groups. Elders, designers, blanket makers and historians, each has a voice, but all do not conform tony one theory about ceremonial robe. Rather the book is a search for the truth about the historical and contemporary role and traditions of the blanket, as those relate to the past and present Indian way of life on the Pacific Northwest Coast.

Robes of Power will make people aware that this traditional practice is dynamic and flourishing. It is a source of strength to the Indian artists who design the robes and to the hereditary chiefs and others who wear them. The book was produced in association with the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology and its “Robes of Power” exhibit.