Skip to main content

Distributed for University of British Columbia Press

Robes of Power

Totem Poles on Cloth

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 had 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 from six of the seven major Northwest Coast Indian groups. Elders, designers, blanket makers, and historians, each has a voice, but all do not conform to any one theory about the 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.

96 pages

Table of Contents





Responses: The Blanket Makers’ Stories

Dempsey Bob -- Roy Henry Vickers -- Carole Helin -- Norman Tait -- Margaret Heit -- Fanny Smith -- Robert Davidson -- Freda Diesing -- Hazel Simeon -- Carrie Weir -- Francis Williams -- Dora Cook -- Simon Dick -- Marion Hunt Doig -- Shirley Hunt Ford -- Tony Hunt -- David Gladstone -- Joe David -- Ron Hamilton

Recollections of Historians

Agnes Cranmer -- Martha Brown -- Florence Davidson -- David Gunanoot -- Moses Ingram -- Flossie Lambly -- James Sewid -- Albert Tait

Contributed Articles

Sculpting on cloth / Dorothy Grant

Haida button blankets / Freda Diesing

Kwagiutl ceremonial blankets / Daisy Sewid Smith

Button blankets on the west coast? / Ron Hamilton

Button-blanket designing, Gitksan style / Vernon Stephens

Gitksan ceremonial robes / The Book Builders of Ksan

The significance of colour among the Kwagiutl / Martine J. Reid




Photographic Credits

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press