Once one embraces the possibility that the Vikings triumphed over the Northwest Passage, a series of new dimensions become apparent--dimensions that include elements of diffusion across both Pacific Oceans in addition to the Atlantic regions. After all, there was certainly enough time available and there can be no doubting the maritime capabilities of the Vikings or their ships. Then again, even in the present day--as demonstrated by the recent voyage by the RCMP vessel the St. Roche II during the summer of 2000--it is possible to pass virtually ice-free through the Northwest Passage in a mere 21 days. This occurrence, combined with versatile, shallow-draught Vikings ships, the Medieval Warm Period, and the relative shortness of the upper Passage (see Map 5c) suggest that the Vikings may well have been able to transit the Passage for perhaps two hundred years  or more.
   On reaching the North Pacific then, how far might they have journeyed and to what ends might they have proceeded? Who might they have contacted, and for that matter, what might they have left behind in terms of their genes, their skills and their world views? All difficult questions, to be sure, but here one might suspect that the Vikings, with their penchant for "cultural immersion" were closer to Chaucer's School Teacher ("gladly would he learn and gladly would he teach") than the cynical and self-serving Pardonner. Then there is an additional possibility to be considered. Given the deteriorating situation in Greenland and the hard lines adopted by the Church towards non-christian Vikings there would be little reason to return there. Perhaps there even existed a determination on the part of the latter to forestall or counter the self-serving dogmatism that was almost certain to be unleashed on the "New World." Which may (or may not) provide a partial explanation for the obfuscation that still surrounds the subject of Viking activities, voyages and contacts.

What follows here is no doubt controversial, and for many it may also be hard to except. For this reason the present segment is largely confined to the North Pacific, though a far wider treatment remains feasible and one or two diversions further south are also included. But in any event, it is now clear that the Northwest Passage was not necessarily an impassable, nullifying obstruction to Viking activities into and across the Candian Arctic. Moreover, given the lengthy window of opportunity (the two centuries mentioned above is a conservative estimate) and the attested capabilities of Viking ships there are almost no limits on how far they might have travelled, the extent of their activities, or what they may or may not have left in their wake, including, perhaps, elements of Viking weaving techniques.

Ever since the discovery of a Norse steatite (soapstone) spindle whorl at the Viking Site at L'Anse Aux Meadows in Newfoundland in the early 1960's spinning and weaving has naturally served as an important Norse indicator in North America--as evidenced by the recent discovery of Norse yarn in the eastern Canadian Arctic reported in Canadian Museum of Civilization communiques for December 2, 1999 and April 28, 2000).
Thus by way of introduction, a little on the subject of Viking weaving itself:
Weaving cloth designs
Spinning and weaving were the year-round tasks of Viking women, both to clothe their families and to produce cloth for other essential purposes, such as the sails for Viking ships. Special combs with long iron teeth were used to card the roughly cleaned wool. It was then attached to a distaff- a wooden stick held in the left hand or the crook of the arm - and fibres teased from it were fastened to a spindle, weighted at the bottom with a spindle-whorl of clay or stone. The spindle was set turning and, as it dropped to the ground, drew out the wool into a thread. This was then wound into a ball, or a skein if it was intended for dyeing. Skeins were made with the aid of a reel - a handle with a curved bar at either end, on to which the wool was wound crosswise from corner to corner. The finished wool was woven on a warpweighted loom - an upright loom leant against the wall of the house. A weaver's other tools consisted of a sword-like weaving-batten of wood, whalebone or iron, and small pointed pin-beaters of wood or bone, used to make detailed adjustments to the threads.
No Viking Age warp-weighted loom survives, but it may be reconstructed on the basis of those still used in primitive communities. In such looms the warp (vertical threads) is held taut by weights and divided into two layers by a beam near the bottom. The upper warp threads hang in front of the beam at the same angle as the loom, while the lower threads hang vertically. Working from the top down, the weaver passes the weft (horizontal threads) through the gap in the warp, then beats it upwards with a weaving-batten. The lower warp threads are tied to a heddle-bar, supported on two rests. By pulling this out to the end of its rests (as in the drawing above), the weaver draws the lower threads through the upper thus changing their position before the weft is passed back in the opposite direction.
Plain (or tabby) weave and twill were the main weaves used in Viking Age Scandinavia. Plain weave is the simpler: single weft threads are passed alternately over and under the warp threads. In twill, above, the weft threads pass over one warp thread, then under two or more others, producing a diagonal effect. Shaggy woollen cloaks were a major export from Iceland (where this example was found). The tufted cloth was produced by inserting short lengths of woo! into the warp during weaving. (James Graham-Campbell, THE VIKING WORLD, Francis Lincoln, London 1989:120; illustrations omitted, emphases supplied)
Unfortunately, when we come to consider weaving in the Pacific NorthWest--the Cowichan Valley in particular--matters appear to have become somewhat muddied by events that took place around the middle of the nineteenth century. Nevertheless, it seems clear that Pacific NorthWest spinning and weaving traditions existed much earlier than this. According to Hilary Stewart (1996:95), Pacific NorthWest spindle whorls were made from a variety of materials including incised whale-bone, sea mammal vertebra, finely polished bone (semi-rectangular), stone, and pieces of antler used in smaller versions "for making fine yarn for fish netting."
On a more general note the latter states:
The materials spun on the NorthWest Coast included cedar bark, nettle fibre, mountain goat, dog wool or sinew.Two methods of spinning were practiced. One methods entailed rolling the fibres down and up the thigh, to twist and ply the strands, while the other required the use of a hand-held spindle. Attached to its shaft was a spindle whorl, which acted as a large flywheel and a base to hold the spun material. Large spindle whorls were generally wood, with carved designs, but small ones might be of bone or antler, probably to give added weight. Only two spindle whorls of stone, one with a design incised on both sides, have been unearthed. Women wove wool yarn into ceremonial garments and spun plant fibres to make twine for fishnets. (Hilary Stewart, Stone, Bone, Antler & Shell: Artifacts of the NorthWest Coast, Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver 1996:94-95; emphases supplied.)
Like the Norse spindle whorl found at L'Anse Aux Meadows, the incised version (found near Yale on the Fraser River, British Columbia) was also made from steatite. The other stone item came from Ozette on the northwest coast of Washington State's Olympic Peninsula. For more on the above, see,"A Functional Analysis of Pacific Northwest Spindle Whorls" (M.A. Thesis, 1996) by Isa Longhran-Delahunt.

One of the first hints of weaving in the Cowichan Valley is found in an oral history concerning the Cowichan First Nation preserved and passed on by their neighbours the Nootka (Nuu-chah-nulth). The latter respect the Cowichan, but do not stand in awe of them. This naturally lends more to the story itself, which involves the first encounter between the Cowichan and Spanish "Conquistadores," thus certainly predating events that took place in the Cowichan Valley in the nineteenth century. Although the story is not humourous in itself, it nevertheless combines values, wisdom and humour, along with the incidental mention of an interchange of skills among the First Nations of British Columbia. In this case the skill is weaving, with the weaver in question one of the prime movers in the story. The beginning of the story as recounted by Nuu-chah-nulth oral historians is given below:

Just about the same time the people up-coast were introduced to the Keesterdores, the people down-coast met up with 'em too. Now there's some people say us Nootka are hard-nosed and belligerent, but them as aren't Nootka are always jealous of us [who] are, and their opinion don't count for much anyway. We're the singers, the Kwagewlth are the carvers, and Salish are the politicians. And the Cowichans are the philosophers. Real gentle people, most of the time, always able to look at two or three or all sides of a question and always willin' to study with and share ideas and stories with other people. They've got the reputation for the most poetic language on the coast, but I don't know because I don't speak any of it or understand it spoken to me.
Maybe it was because the Cowichan were so gentle, or maybe it's because it's just that gold does that to people. We got a lot of gold here, but we never mentioned it, not to keep it a secret, but because we didn't think it was good for anythin'. It won't hold a cuttin' edge, and there was more of it than there was of natural copper, so we figured the copper was the precious metal, and used it for jewelry and ornaments. Maybe the Cowichan thought the Keestadores, who seemed to know a lot about metal, might know what to do with the stuff, so they showed it to them and asked what it was good for, which makes me wonder about havin' a mind that always looks for new ideas. In no time at all the Cowichan were faced with a choice of slavin' in a gold mine or bein' dead from a spanish sword"
They cut and blasted a big hole in the mountain and started whippin' and beatin' people to get 'em to haul rocks and gold. Men, women, and all but the little bitty kids or the very old were workin', and the ones not workin' were penned up in the middle of the village and held hostage. Anyone did anythin' wrong, they got beat and the hostages got abused. A person might take a beatin' for herself, but when you know your sister or some little kid is gonna get beat if you don't behave, you think twice about tryin' anythin.' A couple of people tried to get away and let other tribes know what was goin' on, but what happened was so awful, and the small and the old suffered so much, they decided it wasn't worth it, so the Keesterdores had it pretty much their own way.
There was a girl that had been livin' with the Tse-Shaht, learnin' how their women taught babies and teachin' the Salish weavin' she'd learned from someone else, and she was on her way home when she noticed this big mess on the hill. She didn't feel good about it, and the Cowichan, they always respect their feelin's, so she got the pullers takin' her home in the dugout to pull into a small crik and stay outta sight for a while, and she snuck close and just let her eyes find out the story. She seen the Keestadores whippin' people and takin' them up the path to the mess, and she seen how wore out the ones coming' back were, and she went back and got the pullers to turn around and take her back up-coast, fast.
The Tse-Shaht, like the rest of us, had just found out about the two little girls when she got back, and everyone believed what she had to say. When the Chesterman thing was done and the sacred sisters honoured, the whole fleet headed south. On the way down, other bands and tribes joined. There were fast two-and four-puller sealin' dugouts goin' on ahead to tell the people the fleet was'nt just on a raidin' party, or trying to invade anyone's fishin' territory. As soon as they said why it was heading' down, people joined in, either because they liked the Cowichan or because they figured maybe they'd be next. And, I guess it's true that some people just like a good fight. Halfway down the sealers came racin' back to say there was a Keesterdores boat headin' up and the fleet hid itself and had a long talk about whether to try to take 'em now or later. At first everyone was so steamed up they were all for now, but then they figured there was sure to be some noise, and people would get hurt or killed and they needed all the Fighters they could get because getting the Cowichan out from under was the important thing, so they just lay quiet and let the big galleon go by, and they planned plans and dreamed dreams for later. They hid the dugouts again a mornin's walk from the village, and they snuk in real close and just watched. They saw the Cowichan taken up the mountain path, they saw the others brought down, wore out and some with marks from the whips, and they planned, and figured, and prayed, and waited ....
(Anne Cameron,"The Women's Society,"Daughters of Copper Woman, Press Gang Publishers, Vancouver, 1981:68; italics supplied )
Hereafter follows a rescue, further devastation and ultimately the complete annihilation of the "Keesterdores." But then "gold does that to people," does it not?
Returning to the other issue, if indications of spinning and weaving are considered important indicators that confirm the presence of the Vikings on the east side of North America (i.e., as found on Northern Baffin Island), then by the same token evidence of spinning and weaving in the Pacific Northwest must surely be just as important, if not more so. It is now well known that Norse spindle whorls were found at Brattahlid on the west coast of Greenland and the Viking Site at L'Anse Aux Meadows in Newfoundland. What seems to be less universally known, however, is that pre-Columbian spinning and weaving also occurs in the Pacific Northwest--including the area suggested for the location of "Vinland," i.e., the Cowichan Valley, land of the Cowichan and Coast Salish peoples. Included below is a map that shows traditional Pacific Northwest divisions (Coastal First Nations in colour):

Map 6. Traditional Pacific Northwest Divisions (after Ashwell 1978; graphics added)
Map 6. Pacific Northwest First Nations (after Ashwell 1978 with addtions)

Starting with the far northwest, Tlingit territory extends down from the Yakatut area to the suggested "Helluland" location around Etolin and Wrangell Islands. "Markland" lies further south on the Queen Charlotte Islands (the home of the Haida) while directly east lies Tsimshian territory. "Vinland" is located in the southeast corner of Vancouver Island, the home of the Cowichan and Coast Salish. The territory of the Musqueam is on the mainland to the east. With these divisions in mind we turn next to the use of dog wool in Pacific Northwest weaving.

Who taught "Salish weaving" to the Cowichan girl mentioned in the excerpt from the The Daughters of Copper Woman remains unknown. Nevertheless, the reference to the use of dog wool by Hilary Stewart clearly leads back to the Coast Salish prior to the introduction of sheep into the region, i.e., Elizabeth Lominska Johnson and Kathryn Bernick record that:

Ed Sparrow is the only Musqueam elder who remembers seeing the preparation and weaving of wool. When he was five or six years old, in about 1904, he watched Thellaiwhaltun's wife with Selisya and his grandmother, Spahquia, doing this. At that time he did not realize that they were making the blanket that would be used on the floor at his naming ceremony. The fibre they used was mountain goat wool. He remembers being told in the past they had dogs with long hair which hung down from their bellies...The loom which he remembers had two cross-bars. It did not stand upright, but instead leaned against a wall of the shed where the women worked. It was seven or eight feet tall, and so they had to stand on a box to work. Its width was about three and one-half feet, but he remembers seeing weavings on Vancouver Island which were fifteen to twenty feet wide. (Elizabeth Lominska Johnson, and Kathryn Bernick, Hands of Our Ancestors: The Revival of Salish Weaving at Musqueam, Museum Note No.16, UBC Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver 1988:26)
As Reg Ashwell explains, although associated with spinning and weaving in this cultural context the dogs themselves remain something of a mystery:
Little has been recorded about the Northwest Coast Indians' dogs.. According to reports of early travelers, the dogs had the appearance of coyotes. They were highly trained by their masters, who called them by their name, treated them like respected members of the family, and according to tales old Indians tell, even sang to them. The dogs were trained to enter the woods and chase the game out to the hunter. The Coast Salish used them particularly for driving mountain goats into ambush and for herding deer and elk into lakes, where they could be attacked and slain by men in canoes.
What breed were these dogs? They have mixed long since with the pets of white settlers and reliable identification is no longer possible. Perhaps students interested in dog history will one day attempt to unravel the mystery of their origins... Coast Salish women, utilizing a simple loom, wove in wool--a practice uncommon in North America since the continent was not well-supplied with wool-bearing animals until after the introduction of sheep by white men. In addition, the Puget Sound women had their own little wool-bearing animal--a tame dog, quite small, but with a thick coat of creamy wool which could be shorn at regular intervals. When the wool was hacked off with a mussel shell knife, the fleece was so thick that according to one historian you could lift it up by one corner, like a mat. The Coast Salish also utilized the wool of the mountain goat. The Salish Indians along the Fraser River sometimes hunted the goats and traded the hides to the Coast. They also searched over the hillsides in spring and summer, when the goats were shedding, and gathered the tufts of fur which rubbed off on the bushes as the animals passed by. Perhaps it was this gift of wool which inspired Salish women to begin weaving cloth. Early explorers describe the dogs as having the appearance of Pomeranians, usually white in color, but sometimes varying to a brownish black. They were usually kept on tiny islands in Puget Sound and the Straits of Juan de Fuca and were not found among the more northerly Indians of the Northwest Coast. The women would paddle out daily from the village with food and drink for the dogs and always took them along with them during prolonged absences from the village on food gathering trips and other necessary excursions. A woman's wealth was said to have been judged by the number of dogs she owned. Captain George Vancouver reported meeting a group of two hundred Indians, most of them in canoes, but a few walking along with a drove of about forty dogs, which were sheared close to the skin like sheep.
The opening of the Hudson's Bay trading posts and the subsequent appearance of the easily obtainable Hudson's Bay blankets spelled the death knell for the weaving of these beautiful Salish blankets and mantles, only a few of which survive today in museums and private collections.
With the coming of the gold rush in 1858 and the resultant drastic changes in Coast Salish life styles, the dogs were no longer a valuable commodity and soon became extinct. Today there is not an Indian living who even remembers how they looked.
The wool of the dogs was much finer than that of the goats, and the yarns produced from it were very much like those of a fine grade commercial wool. The shearing was sometimes repeated two or three times in a summer and even then it was hard to get wool enough for many blankets. Women would mix the dog wool with mountain goat wool and together with goose down or duck down and the cotton from the fireweed and other plants, in any proportions available. Clay beaten into the wool with a flat, sword-like piece of wood helped remove the grease from the wool and also whitened it, for dog wool was not so white as the wool of the mountain goat. Next the weaver combed the fibers out with her fingers or hand carders and then rolled them on her leg. The wool was then ready for spinning. The spindle used was a smooth stick three of four feet long. At is lower end was a whorl of carved wood (often beautifully decorated), to keep the strands from slipping.
The loom for weaving the yarn consisted of two horizontal rollers supported in slots cut in wooden uprights set in the ground. Although not always used, the alternate strands of the warp were often keep apart by a simple heddle of thin wood to allow the hand to pass through. The warp was run around these rollers in a series of continuous cords so that the web could frequently be pulled around to a convenient position for the weaver, who always wove from the top downward. (Reg Ashwell, Coast Salish, Their Art, Culture and Legends, Hancock House, Surrey, 1978:50-62, emphases supplied).
Although the dogs mentioned above may have become extinct or disappeared through interbreeding, one thing remains clear enough, namely that Coast Salish weaving clearly predates the arrival of post-Columbian Europeans on the West Coast. It seems necessary to emphasize this point because although priest Lempfrit had been removed from the Cowichan Valley in 1852 (see Part III: Three Steps Back), the Church nevertheless returned there after the 1862-1863 smallpox epidemic and from that time on a movement towards knitting rather than weaving per se appears to have taken place in the Valley, i.e.,
Prior to the 1850s, when the first European settlers arrived in the Duncan area, the Cowichan people had been in contact with settlers in Fort Victoria and Sooke... Roman Catholic and Anglican Missions began visiting in the 1850s and took up residency in the following decade. Before European contact the Coast Salish people wove blankets, leggings, and rumplines (burden straps) out of mountain goat wool, dog hair, and other fibres. The wool was spun with a spindle and whorl, and the blankets were woven on a two-bar loom. There is little information on pre-contact production and use of these weavings, although examples remain in museum collections... Sheep were introduced to Vancouver Island in the1850s, providing a more plentiful source of wool. Knitting by native women probably began in a number of ways shortly thereafter. The most organized instruction in knitting was provided by the Sisters of St. Ann, missionaries who came from Victoria to the Cowichan Valley in 1864 to start a school for the Indians. They taught the Cowichan women to knit such items as socks and mitts. The mission has records of students' knitting and other domestic skills being displayed at local fairs and at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. Influence from the Anglican missionary in the Duncan area is also recorded....Similar instruction was occurring in other mission schools throughout the province. It is probable, however, that this formal instruction was only one of the ways that Salish women began to knit... Until European contact and the introduction of knitting, Coast Salish women primarily used mountain goat wool for their textile production. Sheep were not introduced to Vancouver Island until the 1850's, shortly before the Cowichans learned to knit. Since then sheep's wool has been used exclusively for knitting Cowichan sweaters.
Cowichan knitters spin wool three different ways: with a Salish spindle and whorl, with a converted sewing machine, and with a homemade spinning machine. The spindle and whorl are rarely used today: There are five known types of Salish spindles (Marr 1979:67). The version used exclusively by the Cowichan people was very large and was used for spinning two ply mountain goat wool and dog hair for weaving. The spindle was a tapered shaft approximately four feet long. The whorl, which rested one-half to two-thirds of the way down the shaft, was about eight inches in diameter. Coast Salish spindle whorls were often highly decorated, and many fine examples can be found in museum collections... Neither the large mountain goat wool spindle nor the smaller sheep's wool spindle are much-used today; the majority of spinners prefer to use machines. After missionary teachers instructed their pupils in the use of a European spinning wheel, it was adapted to produce the large quantities of thicker yarn needed for knitting and for much of the Salish weaving. (Margaret Meikle, Cowichan Indian Knitting, Museum Note No. 21, UBC Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver, 1986:1-11;emphases supplied).
From the above references it would appear that Salish/West Coast spindle whorls were not only larger than those used by the Vikings, but also made from a variety of materials with stone versions less in evidence. But then again, the Viking sites in Greenland and Newfoundland hardly compare that well in terms of available resources with the Pacific NorthWest, at least in terms of hardware, not to mention a relative abundance of material for yarn even before the introduction of sheep. But how did spinning and weaving become established in this particular region anyway--and in the Cowichan Valley in particular? Once again it may be useful to look at Map 4 before proceeding, noting especially the predominance of abstract petroglyphs in both the Pacific NorthWest and the American Southwest and also the implications of Viking ships operating in the Pacific in general.

Map 4a. Arctic Additions to Grant 1967, the NorthWest Passage, and the Traditional Viking Lands
Map 4a. Arctic Additions to Grant 1967, the NorthWest Passage and Traditional Viking Lands

Here matters become more interesting, because spinning and weaving with one and two-bar looms seems to have taken place in two widely separated locations in Pre-Columbian North America--a duality with curious underpinnings that will become apparent after reading the following introduction to the subject by Oliver N. Wells:

Leaving the south-west in early Indian days, you might have travelled for thousands of miles in any direction, except south, without seeing any weaving. Weaving was a northwestern speciality, for weaving was very unusual in America north of Mexico. You would not find a real loom anywhere until you got to the Puget Sound country. Students of Indian history find that one of their most interesting problems is this one of loom weaving among a few northwestern groups. They are all Salish and they are gathered on two sides of the present Canadian border. They wove in wool. Ruth Underhill, Ph.D. in her "Indians of the Pacific NorthWest, 1945" refers to the Salish blanket - "only a few of which are left anywhere in the country. There was not much use of colour until the Whites brought yarn in trade. Then a few women in Canada began making colour ed designs and our Klallam and Cowlitz tried it also. A few really beautiful blankets were made in fine yarn and magnificent colour. However, there was no one to encourage them to make these for sale, as Indians are encouraged in the south west. They found that they could get Hudson Bay blankets with far less trouble and so they gave up the art some seventy-five years ago. If that had not happened, Salish blankets might have been as famous as those of the Navaho."(Oliver N. Wells, SALISH WEAVING: PRIMITIVE AND MODERN, As Practiced by the Salish Indians of Southwest British Columbia, Frank T. Coan, Sardis, 1969:3).
The Loom - Two basic types of loom were used by the early Salish Weavers and are still in use. The two-roller loom - as illustrated by Paul Kane in the well-known picture, and the single bar loom, commonly referred to as a three piece loom. Each of the types have had variations noted in their construction, both in the past and as used today. The two-bar loom was developed by the Pueblo Indians between 1100 and 1300 (P. 47. Pueblo Crafts). Whether the Salish tribes were using the loom at that time is not known. Some believe the single bar loom was in use prior to the two bar loom, which developed from it. It is known, however, that both types were in use among the Salish and other North West tribes when the Europeans first came to the NorthWest. (Oliver N. Wells, SALISH WEAVING: PRIMITIVE AND MODERN, 1969:12;emphases supplied).
Certainly Salish blankets are nowhere near as well known as those of the Navaho, nor indeed are they even as well known as the Hudson Bay blankets that largely replaced them. But was this and the near replacement of Salish weaving by monochomatic knitting purely incidental? Perhaps it was, but then again, if similarities became apparent between Pacific NorthWest and American Southwest weaving, then inquiries concerning diffusion rather than independent invention might result. But then how can one say with certainty that it was not independent invention rather than diffusion?
   Initially, of course, one can't. But one can certainly ask how it is that only these two regions emphasized textile weaving with single and two-bar looms among all the other peoples and regions in North America, especially since their respective climates and resources differ so drastically. From here on in, however, the issue becomes more complex anyway, for there remains the question of beginnings in both regions and whether a relationship or mechanism exists to connect the two.
From the fundamental premise of the present work one might suggest that the origin was likely Norse in both cases, and possibly (though not necessarily) linked as such. Referring to the distribution of petroglyphs in Map 4, the stylized/abstract forms predominate in the Pacific NorthWest from Kodiak Island in the NorthWest to as far south as Vancouver Island (and Vinland, i.e., the Cowichan Valley region). After what appears to be a Washington/Oregon gap the style increases once more in California, Nevada and eastwards into Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. The same style also appears on the upper part of the Baja Peninsula and also further south on the west coast of northern Mexico. Interestingly enough, there is also an avenue for combined abstract/naturalistic petroglyphs that appears to lead down roughly 109 degrees west longitude to the junction of the "Four Corner" states. This is in fact that part of the Southwest region where the loom weaving mentioned above occurs -- a region embracing the home of the Anasazi or "Ancient Pueblo" Indians, the Mesa Verde Cliff-Dwellings, Chaco Canyon, a 700 kilometer north-to-south line (or "road") running down 107° 57' west longitude (see William H. Calvin's "Leapfrogging Gnomons" survey method for meridian lines), and not least of all, an active solar spiral petroglyph at Fajada Butte at the south end of Chaco Canyon near the above mentioned meridian line. Here once more is a another complex region -- the "Four Corners" -- with more enigmas and changes, some of which again took place "about a thousand years ago." But while later migrations have been linked to climate changes, few simple answers concerning the region seem to be at hand. For the climate issue in particular, see the People of the Colorado Plateau Series: Agents of Change on the Colorado Plateau-climate and The Anasazi "Collapse".

But what does this have (if anything) to do with the Norse (or Northmen)? Or were they in some way related to the work carried out on a few of these sites? Perhaps they were. There are active solar petroglyph/calendric sites in the region, and at least this aspect coupled with spiral representations might provide a degree of linkage with the Pacific NorthWest, though applications differ between the two regions. Not that this is the only source of spirals in the Four Corners, as the superb pottery of the region attests; the latter incorporating, it would seem: "Age-old methods, timeless symbols" (David L. Arnold, "Pueblo Pottery: 2000 Years of Artistry," National Geographic Magazine, Vol. 162, No. 5, April 1996: 603) -- another specialist field, and for some no doubt, another contentious arena. But in the case of the active solar/lunar petroglyphs one can at least posit that if a relationship with the Norse exists, then locations in the interior of the American Southwest would likely occur along or near major river routes -- the Colorado River especially with its direct access from the sea at the top of the Baja Peninsula. By the same token, continuation and branching away from the Colorado River might also occur (i.e., at approximately 111° west longitude around the junction of the San Juan River or further up near the Green River). Then again, it may be remarked that the continuation of the San Juan River leads to the Chaco Canyon Complex by way of the Chaco River, and lastly, that the region's "Great North Road" terminates to the north at or near the southern "headwaters" of the San Juan River itself.

Either way, trade between the West Coast, the Four Corners region, Mexico and elsewhere appears to have been extensive. Thus accompanying a map that shows trades routes to and from Chaco Canyon to Mexico for copper balls and macaws in return for turquoise, seashells from the Gulf of California, Texas and California, David Roberts writes:

Exotic goods, which trickled into Pueblos from the eighth century on, flooded Chaco Canyon in its heyday about A.D. 1100. With workshops at many of its sites, Chaco may have built a trade network -- and part of its power --- on turquoise. (David Roberts, "The Old Ones of the Southwest," National Geographic Magazine, Vol.189, No. 4, April 1996:97)
To what degree ships and coastal shipping might enter into the equation is unknown, but returning to the many petroglyphs in the Four Corners region (see the presentation by James Q. Jacobs) it appears necessary at this juncture to differentiate (at least initially) between sites that are actively solar or luni-solar in nature and those that are not. With this division established, a riverine component would appear to be loosely indicated in the cases of some solar/lunar petroglyphs in California, Nevada and Utah (i.e., in the Canyonlands) as indicated on the map that accompanies J.W. Fountain's Database of Rock Art Solar Markers which also includes the following introductory note and table:
The report by Sofaer of a rock art solar marker at Fajada Butte in Chaco Canyon was followed by many reports of solar interactions with rock art on important seasonal days. A database of such observations is being maintained to assess such matters as the geographical distribution, preferred glyph type, and frequency. In spite of the 219 observations reported at 45 sites by 29 different observers, the data remain inadequate for substantial conclusions. Observer selection effects and inadequate geographical coverage demand more data for meaningful conclusions to be drawn. From existing data, the following temporal distributions were recorded; Several sites have many markers at each season. Many glyphs undergo sensitive, distinctive interactions on more than one seasonal day. Few of the shadow-casting surfaces show evidence of human modification.(emphases supplied in the following table)
 Summer solstice 34%
 Equinox  32% 
 Winter solstice 14%
 Summer cross-quarter day 11% 
 Winter cross-quarter day
 Circular & spiral 37%
 Anthropomorphic 21%
 Zoomorphic 15%
 Other 27%

For more on the pioneering research carried out by Anna Sofaer in the Chaco Canyon region see the Mystery of Chaco Canyon (PBS) and also the latter's Solstice Project Research Papers, especially the Astronomical Markings at Three Sites on Fajada Butte and The Great North Road.

    In general it seems that there are more solar sites in the Four Corners area than might at first have been expected; perhaps others may be found like Fajada Butte and the Chimney Rock lunar site in Colorado, hopefully leading to a greater understanding of the interest shown in the luni-solar phenomena delineated. As for the many other petroglyphs in the Four Corners region, this is another contentious area that although not entirely unrelated will not be addressed here, except to note that contact need not have been in large numbers and that whatever may have taken place was more likely to have been benevolent co-operation rather than the imposition of wills and wants. Whether this may have contributed to some of the later movement and strife in the region (perhaps shamanistic opposition) also remains conjectural. No doubt the region is beset with enough question marks as it is, but then again there seems to have been a great deal of activity in the Four Corners during and following the Viking Age, and as discussed next there appear to be a few Norse indicators in this context, though still conjectural and second or third hand in nature.

Proceeding with the primary assumption that Vikings did indeed make their way into the Pacific Northwest by way of the Northwest Passage and the coast of Alaska, continuing eastward along the southern coast of Alaska would lead in turn to the lands of the northern Tlingit, the Tsimshian, the Haida of the Queen Charlotte Islands, and eventually down to the Coast Salish of Vancouver Island and mainland to the east. Thus a northern route whereby Nordic weaving could have arrived in North America. However, an alternate and opposing viewpoint is supplied by Oliver N. Wells as follows:
"I shall not hazard any opinion in regard to the probable course of migration of the Saeliss, and other interior connections other than that I conceive it to have been from the south west and eastward, gradually advancing until interlocking with the Coast tribes." From the study of literature published to date it would seem possible that the Salish people had the loom and were using it here, while the Pueblo people were at work with the loom far to the south. However, if the Salish occupation of their present territory came at a later date than the early weaving of the south west, it may well be that the loom came with the Salish to their present home between the Columbia and Fraser River systems on the West Coast. Other tribes of the North West Coast were well known for their weaving of textiles. The earliest known weaving in North America was brought to our knowledge by the discovery of 2,000 year old woven sashes and pack-straps in caves in the south west. These fabrics had been woven by a people known as the 'Basketmakers', who spun fibres of Yucca, Milkweed, Indian Hemp and Cedar bark into string or yarn. Evidence also was found which proved the existence and use of a single-bar loom among the people. In the period 1100 to 1300, the Pueblo people began weaving cotton fabnc on vertical looms similar to those used today among the Salish people....About this time, the Sepass family, a dominant family of the tribe on the Columbia, as recorded by Paul Kane. This family migrated into the Thompson River country of B.C., thence down the Fraser to take up permanent residence among the Chilliwack tribe of the Coast Salish. Chief Sepass was born in 1843. He saw Fort Hope established when a small boy.... Chief Sepass always asserted that his people had originally come from the south . . .The Navaho and Apache tribes intermarried with the Pueblo and took the art of weaving North with them between 1300 and 1600. Among the earliest primitive weaving of the Pueblo people was the feather, or fur blanket made by twining fibre across a warp of fur, or feathers. "Readers of *The Northern Paiute Indians' will remember that they too made this blanket and that their two-bar loom was often the opposite sides of a large wooden frame." To substantiate the belief expressed by Chief Sepass as to the origin of his Salish family, there are a number of references which would indicate it was reasonable to believe that the Chief was right."The coming of the Aztecs to Central America is but as yesterday compared to the coming of the ancient people who dwelt by the Fraser long ago." "We know, however, from other lines of evidence, that the Salish occupying this region today are an intrusive people, who came from the southwest."(Oliver N. Wells, SALISH WEAVING: PRIMITIVE AND MODERN, As Practiced by the Salish Indians of Southwest British Columbia, Frank T. Coan, Sardis, 1969:3).
A differing view to be sure, and one that may well have been an honest belief, but nevertheless readers are still directed towards the Southwest and inland, rather that to the North, the Coast and eventually the Norse. Moreover, statements concerning origins recorded after the1860's might well --for obvious reasons--merit careful scrutiny before complete acceptance. Then again, it seems that a century later in the 1960's Oliver N. Wells played an active role in the revival of Salish Weaving, a positive action that is perhaps the latter's most important contribution on the subject in any case (see: "Return of the Salish Loom," The Beaver, Spring 1966).

As far as weaving in the south may be concerned there seem to have been minor dissimilarities in the looms themselves, e.g., some used in the Southwest by the Pueblo Indians were attached to housing beams. However, in marked contrast to the suggestion of Southwestern origins expressed above, in an early volume of the National Geographic Magazine the caption accompanying a photograph of a Pueblo one-bar loom suggests that its origin was from the North, specifically Alaska:

Weaving the Multi-hued Navajo Blanket: Southwestern United States. Such a primitive loom as this is said by ethnologists to have originated with the Chilkat Indians of Alaska. This tribe still produces some wonderful blankets, but those of the Navajos of the Southwest are better known to the world at large. The warp is hung over a long pole, as shown in the picture, and mythological figures are woven into the piece in brilliant colours. ( "Weavers of the World," National Geographic Magazine, Vol. XXXVI, No. 2, August 1919:iii; emphases supplied).
Historically, further south in Mexico, Guatemala, and Peru the more singularly attached back-strap loom appears to have been used, e.g., in latter-day Peru and among the earlier Moche as follows:
THE BACKSTRAP LOOM is so called because a weaver wraps a strap /around her back and ties it to the lower wooden loom bar. The other end of the loom is anchored to the ceiling or a post. By leaning back and forth, the weaver can adjust the tension of the loom. Her hands are free to insert weft threads or, as this weaver in the village of Santa Rosa is doing, use a wooden tool in her right hand to separate the strands. The long rectangular piece the woman is making will be shaped and sewed into an alforja, the saddlebag carried by people or pack animals. Most Peruvian weavers use both wool and cotton. In the rural areas of the north coast some prefer wild cotton, sometimes homegrown but more often collected from the wild in such colors as brown, burgundy, and violet. The weaver may spend as long as two weeks to complete a single alforja. As more people leave rural areas to find work in town, fewer are left to continue this ancient tradition. The inventor of the backstrap loom is unknown, but the first representation of such a loom in Peru occurs on an extraordinary Moche pot in the British Museum; it shows a series of women weaving with their looms anchored to poles of algarrobo wood. Moche textiles from ancient times are rare, because EL Niño rains dampened the soil, leaving textiles to rot. Those that have survived show the same high quality, complexity, and detail that characterize their ceramics. ( Long, Michael E. "Enduring Echoes of Peru's Past," National Geographic Magazine, Vol. 177, No.6, June, 1990: 44-45; emphases supplied).
The intricate designs on this rare tapestry, woven on a backstrap loom, represent warriors. Each carries his war club diagonally and holds a ceremonial goblet, perhaps full of blood to be consumed in a ceremony. Atop each goblet sits ulluchu, possibly a relative of the papya that may have prevented coagulation when added to blood. The role of the warrior is one of the many things we are still learning about the Moche as we study the rich imagery of their art." ( Christopher B. Donnan, "Masterworks of Art Reveal a Remarkable Pre-Inca World. National Geographic Magazine, Vol. 177, No.6, June 1990:32.)
Yet again among the Aztecs:
"The good weaver teaches others." The words of Guadalupe Vasquez of Cuetzalan (left-photo) echo a painting in the Mendoza Codex, ordered by the first viceroy of New Spain to depict Aztec life. A woman (below-painting) instructs a 14-year-old girl in the art of weaving the colourful fabrics at which the Spanish marvelled." ( Bart McDowell, "The Aztecs," National Geographic Magazine, Vol. 158, No.6, December, 1980:723.)
and in Guatemala:
On the loom of time, past and present intertwine in a pattern perceptible to the discerning eye. The Backstrap loom used by a Maya woman--whose water lily headdress and decorated mat bespeak royal lineage--is still used by present-day weavers in Guatemala. (Ray T. Matheny, "An Early Maya Metropolis Uncovered: EL MIRADOR," National Geographic Magazine, Vol. 172, No.3, September, 1987:336)
For more on Maya weaving -- both the new and the old -- see: Textile Art of Chiapas Maya by the Science Museum of Minnesota, and in South America, the Rietz Collection of Peruvian Textiles. Further items of interest in terms of similarities and differences that will not be addressed here include Inca/Tiahuanaco ponchos, Chimu tapestry ponchos, Chancay mantles and the embroidered Paracas mantle. (Nigel Davies, The Ancient Kingdoms of Peru, Penguin, London, 1997:82-83). What might be added, however, is that once again a whole area of research opens up when one comes to consider Peruvian weaving with its its incredible complexities and lengthy historical development. The period of interest here (800 CE - 1500 CE, thus generally later than the times associated with Nazca and the Moche) includes only the "Middle Horizon" period from 600 -1000 CE; the "Late Intermediate" period from 1000 CE to 1476 CE, and the time of Inca influences that extended until the beginning of the Spanish Conquest in 1532 (Ferdinand, 1987:229).
As a further aside, surviving among the records prepared by Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala in The first new chronicle and good government (1613-15) are a number of illustrations concerning Incan weaving, including the use of small distaffs and small spindle whorls (illustrations 1-3 below), and also the backstrap loom.
The Peruvian Backstrap Loom in Ayala's First New Chronicle, 1613-1615
Incan Spinning and Weaving from Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala's
The first new chronicle and good government (1613-1615)
1. "A hunchbacked woman, spinning as she walks along,"
2. "Two women of a poorer class spinning outside a hut."
3.  With distaff and spindle whorl: "A Virgin of the Sun." (Ferdinand, 1987:192-193).

Peruvian Type Backstrap Loom (after Albers 1965)

Details of the Peruvian type loom (Albers 1965)

As far as weaving and the Incas themselves may be concerned, to introduce "The Inca Empire" in Ancient Peruvian Textiles (1987:185) Ferdinand Anton observed that:
The Inca styles finds its purest and most incisive expression in textile art. There are no direct models for it in ancient Peru. The break comes imperceptibly, with a gradual abandonment of the visual language of earlier Indian cultures. Geometric ornament, the division of the surface into rectangles, stripes and other geometric forms, now becomes all-pervasive. Mythical creatures almost cease to exist as motifs....
' Inca ' does not mean a tribe, but a dynasty, at whose head stood the revered Inca lord as ' Son of the Sun.' The role assigned to the ' Children of the Sun ' as bringers of culture is emphasized in the saga of the divine origin of the first Inca. Garcilaso de la Vega, himself half-Inca, recorded it in his Comentarios reales:
Thou knowest that in ancient times all this land was desolate and bare and the people lived like wild beasts, without civilization. When our Father, the Sun God, saw this, he had compassion and sent down from heaven one of his sons, Manco Capac, and a daughter, Mama Ocllo, so that the people should recognize him as God and learn how to live reasonably and peacefully together.. . Then the first Inca said to his wife and sister: ' Let us settle here to fulfil our Father's wish.' They gathered many people round them and instructed them in all activities and arts. Manco Capac taught the men, and his sister-wife, the Queen, taught the women weaving and other arts... ( Ferdinand Anton, Ancient Peruvian Textiles, Thames and Hudson, New York, 1987:185-186 )
The inherent complexity of Incan and earlier weaving in Peru extends the matter well beyond the immediate scope of the present discussion, but for the time being at least it is perhaps sufficient to dwell on the implications of weaving throughout the pacific--not merely the possible and later Nordic influences under discussion here, but also the earlier periods in addition and the complex symbology that was already clearly evident. Thus, for example, the following Peruvian textile ("Part of a border in covering stem stitch showing two intertwined snakes with lizards and mice. Late Paracas, c. 300-200 BCE," Anton, 1987:80) that would be well suited to the main thrust of Jeremys Narby's The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge (Jeremy P. Tarcher / Putnam, New York, 1998)

Peruvian Textile;ca.300-200 BCE

Peruvian Textile: Late Paracas, ca. 300-200 BCE

Lastly, in the later contexts, why the difference in looms between the far North and the distant South? It would seem possible that just as stone or adobe buildings may have provided fixed attachment points for the latter, the free-standing (or leaning) single and two bar looms in the Pacific Northwest might owe their origins to the ready availability of wood on one hand and a degree of seasonal portability on the other. Although a singular example, John R.Jewitt (a captive of the Nootka of Vancouver Island) recounted that:
On the third of September the whole tribe quitted Nootka, according to their practice, in order to pass the autumn and winter at Tahsis and Coopte, the latter lying about 30 miles up the Sound in a deep bay... On these occasions every thing is taken with them, even the planks of their houses, in order to cover their new dwellings.(White Slaves of Maquinna: John R. Jewitt's Narrative of Capture and Confinement at Nootka, Heritage House, Surrey, 2000:99)
But weaving all the way down the West Coast of the Americas? Why not? And why not the Vikings too, though they may not have been the first to pass this way.

Then again, there is also the impact on trade to be considered, which brings us back to the mysterious Coast Salish dogs observed by George Vancouver, i.e., the "drove of about forty dogs, which were sheared close to the skin like sheep." We certainly know from this reference that the thick "wool" from these dogs was used for weaving, and although it is hard to know how effective it might have been, one can surmise that the resulting clothing might well played its part in warding off the cold; an aid, one might further suggest, against such things as rheumatism. The latter point may appear oddly specific, but it is mentioned here mainly to provide an introduction to the following concerning Mexican "hairless" dogs--dogs that apparently also turned up in Peru "before 750 A.D", i.e.,

Venerable folklore in both Mexico and Peru esteems the distinctive hairless dog as a living hot-water bottle whose warmth eases the pain of rheumatism. But how did these widely separated nations come to have this animal rarely seen elsewhere, and consider it valuable for the same therapeutic quality? Ceramic "hairlesses" like this one (below) have been found in tombs of the Colima culture on Mexico's pacific coast, indicating that the Colima people possessed real hairless canines perhaps as early as 250 B.C. But no ceramic dogs, or any other representation are known to have been created in Peru before 750 A.D., when they began to appear in settlements of the Moche people, says Alana Cordy-Collins, an anthropologist at the University of San Diego. Traders who sailed large balsa rafts along the coast between Mexico and Peru may have introduced the dogs to the Moche. The traders sought a spiny oyster shell from Mexico for ritual use. "We believe they traded textiles for the shells and brought the dogs home too," Cordy-Collins says....("How a Mexican Dog made its way to Peru," Geographica, National Geographic Magazine, Vol. 187, No.3 1995).
One can hardly say with certainty that there never were any truly hairless dogs in this context. But what one can suggest, however, is that ceramic representations of animals with hair will more often than not tend to look "hairless" unless trouble is taken to delineate the hair itself on the ceramic. Moreover the rheumatism aspect has already been covered adequately in terms of woolen clothing, has it not? But how did such dogs get from Mexico to Peru in any case, and where for that matter, did the small "wool" bearing Coast Salish Dogs come from in addition? Although the date referred to in the above is a little too early, i.e., 750 A.D., it still seems easier to see these dogs (a few pairs or more) being transported by sea in both directions--perhaps by the balsa rafts to the South and Viking ships somewhat later to the North. Why would the Vikings go to so much trouble? Here again one can only theorize, but remembering that there were no sheep in the Pacific Northwest until after the 1850's the dogs may have assumed greater importance at the time, especially when it is also recalled that Viking sails were made from wool. Remembering also Ed Sparrow's recollection that the Salish dogs had: "long hair which hung down from their bellies" and that he also remembered: "seeing weavings on Vancouver Island which were fifteen to twenty feet wide," consider next the following by Priit J. Vesilind ("In Search of Vikings." National Geographic Magazine, May 2000). Firstly the quotation provided by the latter: "It was the Sail that made the Viking expansion possible. Danish Naval Architect Ole Crumlin-Pedersen" and secondly, his description of the wool used for making authentic sails for replica Viking ships:
[Sails] for replica ships start with the roundup on Jens Jakobsoy Island of free-range sheep belonging to an ancient Norwegian breed. Per Johnson and his family pull the wool by hand--strong outer hair for the warp and downy inner wool for the weft. Tar and fat are added to the woven fabric to create water-resistant, wind tight square sails like those carved on Viking pictures stones." (Priit J. Vesilind, "In Search of Vikings," National Geographic Magazine, Vol. 197, No.5, May 2000:2-27).
The manufacture of authentic wool sails is no doubt labour-intensive as well as highly specialized and accordingly no minor purchase, but then again in modern times this is still a form of yachting, is it not? In fact, in considering materials for the sail of the Skuldelev 1 replica SNORRI (see Part 1) W. Hooding Carter (1999:62) stated: "Traditionally this should have been made of wool and coated with animal fat on its leeward side, but a prohibitive estimate of $100,000 for the sail alone had necessitated a splendidly crafted canvas replica." Thus there was perhaps more than one reason for the introduction (if that was what is was) of the dogs into the Pacific Northwest--a useful augmentation to goat wool and also a possible source when it came time to replace worn and/or damaged sails, if not those of the large ocean-going sail-equipped canoes used by the Kwakiutl and others in the Pacific Northwest.


As for the origins of weaving in the Pacific Northwest, there remain other aspects to be considered--not least of all how spinning and weaving became established so much further north--as far north in fact as Alaska among the Tlingit, and why origin stories also involve their neighbours the Tsimshian if North American weaving originated thousands of miles away in the American Southwest. This having been said, the evidence for weaving at these higher northern latitudes nevertheless brings additional complexities with it. This seems especially true in the case of the Pacific Northwest "Dancing Blankets" -- another complex topic that is best referred to those who have specialized knowledge concerning it. What can be done here, however, is to add quotations concerning origins that reinforce the northern side of the matter and also explain its use among other northern groups in the region. Firstly, Sheryl Samuel writes:

Legend has told us that long ago women of the Tsimshian tribe were the first to produce the twined ceremonial garments. The word in the Tsimshian dialect for these weavings is "gus-halai't" and is translated by Lieutenant Emmons in his 1907 monograph, The Chilkat Blanket, as "dancing-blanket." Later, knowledge of this type of weaving traveled through intermarriage to the families of the Tlingit: the Tongass, the Stikine, and the Chilkat. The Tlingit name for the garment is "Nakheen" and is interpreted by Emmons as "the fringe about the body." This refers to the flowing warp fringe which sways about the body when the robe is worn in the dance. The name "Chilkat Blanket" by which it is known today was coined by European traders in the late 1800s as a commercial tag for an important trade item. Most likely they were so called because the greatest producers of the Dancing Blanket at that time were the Chilkat women whose villages lay at the head of what is now called Lynn Canal. The term "blanket" is misleading, as it is actually a robe worn only on ceremonial occasions. However, as the name is well established, the original qualification of "dancing" will be used here in order to indicate its very special nature. (Cheryl Samuel, The Chilkat Dancing Blanket, Pacific search Press, Seattle, 1982:22)
Secondly, the question of origins is no doubt contentious even in this context. About all that can be done here at present is suggest that the passage of time has perhaps acted to obscure some of the finer details. But what also can be suggested is if the Vikings had indeed passed through the Northwest Passage and the Bering Strait, then after moving through the Aleutians and sailing eastwards again along the southern coast of Alaska they would finally reach Tlingit territory, and by turning south that of the Tsimshian. What may or may not have taken place in terms of cultural contact in these regions remains debatable, but nevertheless, the commencement of weaving and spinning, the use of spindle whorls and single and two-bar looms still requires explanation, and the Norse option must surely merit consideration. But if so, then what was the relationship between the Vikings and the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest? Although difficult to establish in the first place, it might still have been of a practical nature; firstly from the Vikings, such skills as improved cold-copper working with the available pure copper, and secondly, perhaps, elements of weaving, influenced initially by the availability of resources -- in exchange for freedom of passage, food supplies, and the long-established knowledge of flora and fauna required to live successfully in the various ecological zones that the Vikings encountered.
Did the Vikings attempt more in terms of cultural contact? Who can really say. What can be said, however, is that there was an enormous period of time available, perhaps as long as half a millennium in which contact could have been maintained. On the other hand, contact could also have lasted no longer than a few decades--not necessarily because of strife or hostility either, but because the Vikings themselves may have had their own agenda, with bigger fields to plow and longer rows to hoe. As for the establishment of weaving in the northern regions, that too poses its share of problems, even without the suggested Norse component. Given that uncertainties exist in this respect and the likelihood that few perhaps will ever be resolved satisfactorily, one can only note that the stories below include the "raven" and the "canoe" as one might expect, but that both--the former in particular--have Norse connotations that may or may not be relevant to the present line of inquiry. Thus as far as origins may be concerned:
Two hundred years ago, on the Northwest Coast of North America, native weavers created robes of exquisite beauty to adorn the wealthiest of their noble class. These robes, patterned in bold black and white designs streaked with scintillating dashes of yellow, predate the better known Chilkat Dancing Blankets which originate from the same area. The robes come from the time before Chilkat weaving, a time when women who were expert basket makers turned their talents to working with wool. "From the testimony of those best informed, the first woven blanket was known as tan or 'thlaok klee' ('worked together blanket'), a combination of twisted cedar-bark and the wool of the mountain goat, showing a plain white field. Then followed the introduction of color in geometric design, in which longitudinal stripes of the herring-bone pattern appeared on the white field. This was named Yel-ku uu [Yell Koowu] ('the raven's tail') from the resemblance it bore to the vanes of the tailfeather of that bird" (Emmons 1911:332).
From which tribe, or tribes, the weavers came is difficult to say. There is little recognition of this style of weaving among the native people of the northern coast today, and no memory of its manufacture. The patterns and weaving techniques which are shared with the basket weavers are familiar, but knowledge or practice of their use in wool is unknown. Published accounts of European voyages on the coast in the 1700's and early 1800's reveal that the robes were worn by the Tlingit, the Haida, and by the Pacific Eskimo inhabitants of Prince William Sound, the Chugach (Holm 1982: 40). It cannot be assumed, however, that their distribution was limited to these peoples for active trading took place amongst all the separate tribes of the coast. (Cheryl Samuel, The Raven's Tail, UBC Press, Vancouver 1987:12).
But what can be supplied in some detail, however, are the histories, legends and stories concerning two major items that do indeed pertain to weaving in the Pacific Northwest, in particular the "Dancing Blankets" and the "Raven's Tail Robes" researched by Sheryl Samuel:


"It was in the time before time, when animals were men and all wore their skins as great blankets, that a party of women set out in search of wild celery. The cold was leaving the land and the women were eager to add this harbinger of spring to their winter diet of dried salmon and oil. The crisp young stalks of these tender plants, if picked before the leaves opened, could be eaten raw by peeling off the outer skin; it was a tantalizing prelude to the coming of the summer's warmth and the welcome feasts of fresh roots and berries. The women gathered what they needed and tied their harvest into great bundles using strong ropes made of plied spruce roots. One of the party was the daughter of a great chief. As she walked down the path, picking twigs and smelling the fresh forest smells, she suddenly stumbled in the footprint of a brown bear and her pack loosened. She was forced to stop and adjust her bundle and as she did so, she lost her companions in the distance. Angrily, she mumbled abuses at the Bear family. When her pack was well settled she started after her friends, going slowly and cautiously in the coming dusk. The twilight came on. The woods stilled in preparation for the night's hunt. Little birds came to rest in the great boughs and the wind hushed. Raven's wings pounded overhead as he flew to join the darkness. As the light lowered, the girl was suddenly aware of footsteps behind her. A handsome youth appeared and whispered soft words in her ear, persuading her to follow him to his home and become his wife. She was gladdened by his comforting words and went with him.
Deep in the forest they reached a village of the Bear family. Echoes of her disgruntled words beat in her ears and she trembled at the thought of the trickery to which she had fallen victim. Her daring suitor was of the Bear clan. In time she escaped from the village of her husband and made her way to the shore. Looking out over the water she saw a fisherman in his canoe. She cried to him for help; upon hearing her tale, he promised to aid her if she would come and be his wife. Eagerly, she agreed. The fisherman touched his canoe with his fish-killing club and it quickly sprang to land. The young woman stepped on board just as her Bear husband and his friends emerged from the woods. The canoe sped to sea; her rescuer was not human, but the benevolent sea spirit Gonaqadet. They traveled across the choppy salt water for some time and then the spirit guided his canoe to the bottom of the sea, where he lived in a great rock house. Giant seaweeds forested the sea floor and the painted house front, beautifully carved and inlaid with green haliotis shell, welcomed their arrival. The young woman became greatly attached to her kindly, gentle husband and in time gave birth to a son who was human in form. When the boy was old enough to begin his training for manhood, she asked her husband to let her travel to the land so that she could put him in the care of her brother. He agreed to her plan on the condition that she promise not to forget him. She and the boy made the long journey back to the land and went to live in the house of her brother. While the boy grew and learned the arts of hunting and of fishing, of making tools and of carving, of singing, of dancing and of all the many things a boy needed to know to live in the world of men, Gonaqadet's wife began to weave. She created a magnificent ceremonial robe into which she wove the story of her meeting with her husband and their courtship. When her son had reached the age of manhood, she left the land and returned to her home under the sea, presenting her husband with the robe she had woven. This was the origin of the first Dancing Blanket." (Cheryl Samuel's, The Chilkat Dancing Blanket, Pacific search Press, Seattle, 1982:12-15)
"Raven glided over the seashore, listening to the rhythm of the waters as they washed upon the land, listening to the syphoning sounds of the sea. As he circled, he saw below him the darkened entrance to a deep cave. Gliding down, he came to light on a large drifted root which marked the land entrance to the cave. Inside sat Gonaqadet, proudly seated with the great Dancing Blanket thrown around his shoulders. The Spirit announced a welcome to Raven and bid him enter. Spread before him was a rich feast of fish and fowl, served graciously in wooden dishes which were exquisitely carved in the shapes of the many spirits which inhabited the land. Raven dined, first on the pungent smells rising from the steaming stews, then on the stews themselves rich in the flavors of the sea and the land.
After Raven had finished his feast, Gonaqadet invited him to sit around the central fire and watch while many dances were performed. The beat of the drum echoed the pounding of the waves; the steady, elegant flow of the dancers' movements imprinted itself on Raven's memory so that he might take it to the villages of men. Gonaqadet himself was a dynamic dancer and more than once he donned the Dancing Blanket which his wife had woven for him in honor of their meeting and courtship. The great fringe, Nakheen, which flowed from the base of the weaving, swung about his body as he moved. White eagle down, spilling from his headdress, floated floorward to mingle with the swinging woolen strands. It was an inspiring sight, and Raven's heart pounded as the pulse of the dance grew stronger. When the ceremony was over, the generous Gonaqadet made a long speech, offering Raven his Dancing Blanket to take with him when he. journeyed to the villages of men. Raven accepted this inspired gift and in time offered it to the human race to unravel and weave again. It was in this way that women became weavers of the beautiful Dancing Blankets." (Cheryl Samuel's, The Chilkat Dancing Blanket, Pacific search Press, Seattle, 1982:18)
"An old and very powerful Chilkat chief lived in a village with his two wives. These two were very clever women, expert in the weaving of spruce root baskets and accomplished as leather workers. Yearly, the men of the chief's clan traveled to the southern lands of the Tsimshian to trade for the expertly carved and painted red cedar chests and the grand war canoes for which those people were renowned. On one of these ventures, the men returned with a beautifully woven Dancing Blanket. The two wives of the chief were enthralled with the fineness of the weave and puzzled over the techniques which allowed the weaver to produce such subtle curves. They studied the blanket carefully, looking again and again at the twined yarns, trying the weaving themselves on a sample warp until they understood how it was done. The knowledge they had of basketry aided them tremendously in their efforts; they could see that the foundation of this skilled technique echoed the practices of the basket weavers. It took time to learn all the subtleties, many months of following the tiny weft strands in and out of the design. There were moments when they thought they knew how a circle was turned or how the fine outline rows were laid in, only to try it and see that some bit of knowledge was missing. More time, then, was needed to look and to think. Eventually, they felt certain that they could duplicate this fine art, but they could not weave a blanket for they had no pattern board to follow. One night, as the eider wife slept, a magnificent Dancing Blanket sprinkled all over with white raindrops came into her dreams. She told her husband of the dream and he advised her to journey to a village of the Tsimshian and relate her story to a famous designer. The Tsimshian were well known for their artistic abilities; surely a painter there would be able to interpret it for her. The chief's two wives went south and found a man who could feel the flow of the dream and paint its spirit on a wooden board. The two women then returned to their home and started to weave the ceremonial robe. They worked together, each weaving one side of the pattern, ecstatic when they completed one of the perfect circles. With a surge of pride, they presented the finished robe to their husband, the robe that was the first Dancing Blanket made in the land of the Tlingit." (Cheryl Samuel, The Chilkat Dancing Blanket, Pacific search Press, Seattle, 1982:72)
Two hundred years ago, on the Northwest Coast of North America, native weavers created robes of exquisite beauty to adorn the wealthiest of their noble class. These robes, patterned in bold black and white designs streaked with scintillating dashes of yellow, predate the better known Chilkat Dancing Blankets which originate from the same area. The robes come from the time before Chilkat weaving, a time when women who were expert basket makers turned their talents to working with wool. "From the testimony of those best informed, the first woven blanket was known as tan or 'thlaok klee' ('worked together blanket'), a combination of twisted cedar-bark and the wool of the mountain goat, showing a plain white field. Then followed the introduction of color in geometric design, in which longitudinal stripes of the herring-bone pattern appeared on the white field. This was named Yel-ku uu [Yell Koowu] ('the raven's tail') from the resemblance it bore to the vanes of the tailfeather of that bird" (Emmons 191 I: 332).
From which tribe, or tribes, the weavers came is difficult to say. There is little recognition of this style of weaving among the native people of the northern coast today, and no memory of its manufacture. The patterns and weaving techniques which are shared with the basket weavers are familiar, but knowledge or practice of their use in wool is unknown. Published accounts of European voyages on the coast in the 1700's and early 1800's reveal that the robes were worn by the Tlingit, the Haida, and by the Pacific Eskimo inhabitants of Prince William Sound, the Chugach (Holm 1982: 40). It cannot be assumed, however, that their distribution was limited to these peoples for active trading took place amongst all the separate tribes of the coast. (Cheryl Samuel, The Raven's Tail, UBC Press, Vancouver 1987:12).
Only eleven of these historic robes remain. They are housed in major museum collections around the world. Six of them are in Europe: four in the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography in Leningrad, one in the National Museum in Copenhagen, and one in the British Museum in London. Of the five robes in North America, only two are complete. One of these is in the Harvard Peabody Museum and the other in the Royal Ontario Museum, in Toronto. Storage rooms in the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa, the American Museum of Natural History and the Museum of the American Indian in New York, and the University Museum in Philadelphia shelter fragments of the other three....
How does it happen that so many of the Raven's Tail robes are in European collections? In the late 1700's and early 1800's, explorers and traders plied the coastal waters of North America, making contact with the native population. Descriptions in the journals of the early European mariners make clear that the native people were loathe to part with their finest garments. The five excellent examples of these robes obtained by the Russians are of major importance to our knowledge of this unique style of weaving. The collection history of the Leningrad robes is confused. In 1978 Dr. Adrienne Kaeppler published Cook Voyage Artifacts, an account of the items collected on the Pacific voyages of Captain James Cook. In this record she mentions all of the Raven's Tail robes in Leningrad. However, recent research by Dr. Kaeppler shows that the Russian records of the Cook material acquired by Behm in Kamchatka do not mention any woollen weavings. Therefore, she feels that the Leningrad blankets cannot be dated from the Cook voyage (personal communication). Of the five robes in North America, only two are complete. One called the Swift Robe is the most remarkable example of Raven's Tail twining in existence. The other complete robe, from Gitlaxdamks village, is transitional: its designs are Chilkat, but its construction remains in the Raven's Tail tradition. Three robes which exist as fragments are the only weavings with any data concerning their place of origin. These come from Lynn Canal, Knight Island, and Kruzof Island, all areas in the Tlingit tribal homeland. (Cheryl Samuel, The Raven's Tail, UBC Press, Vancouver 1987:12-14).
"It happened in those mysterious times when Raven still walked among men, exercising the cunning of his mind in bringing good to his creatures by ways strange and inexplicable to mankind. Already his greatest works had been accomplished. He had stolen the Sun, Moon and Stars from his grandfather, the great Raven-who-lived-above-the-Nass River, Nass-shah-kee-yalhl, and thus divided the night from day. He had set the tides in order. He had filled the streams with fresh water and had scattered abroad the eggs of the salmon and trout so that the Tlingit might have food. But not yet had Raven disappeared into the unknown, taking with him the power of the spirit world to mingle with mankind.
In those days a certain woman who lived in a cloud village had a beautiful daughter of marriageable age. She was greatly desired by all mortals and many came seeking to mate with her. But their wooing was in vain. At last it chanted that the eyes of the Sun rested with desire upon the maiden, and at the end of his day's travel across the sky he took upon himself the form of a man and sought her for his wife."
"Long years they lived together in the Sky-land and many children came to them. But these children were of the Earth-world like their mother and not of the Spirit-world of their father, Ga-gahn. One day as the mother sat watching her children frolicking in the fields of the Sun-land, her mind filled with anxiety over their future, she plucked some roots and began idly to plait them together in the shape of a basket. Her husband, the Sun, had divined her fears and perplexities. So he took the basket which she had unknowingly made and increased its size until it was large enough to hold the mother and her eight children. In it they were lowered to their homeland, the Earth. Their great basket settled near Yakutat on the Alsek River, and that is the reason that the first baskets in southeastern Alaska were made by the Yakutat women. Thus out of their folk memories have the Tlingit created the story of the origin of basketry" (Paul 1944: 9). (Cheryl Samuel, The Raven's Tail, UBC Press, Vancouver 1987:14).
Thus some of the complexities associated with the origins of weaving in the Pacific Northwest--not that there do not exist further difficulties associated with symbolism in this region, for there are also Pacific Northwest petroglyphs, native "coppers," ceremonial masks, totem poles and house paintings to be included here, as indicated (but not explained) in the works and the ways of Tlingit Chief Shakes and the carvings of the late Mungo Martin. Weavers on one hand, Carvers on the other...
At which point it is necessary to note that as far as weaving alone is concerned we have not even addressed the materials used, the types of weave employed, or the colours, let alone the complexities of the patterns involved. Here it also becomes necessary to suggest that the latter may represent a further degree of complexity, especially when one recalls how much information it was possible to store on far simpler devices such as the Incan Quipu. In the case of Coast Salish weaving patterns, Oliver N. Wells (1969:21-25) included four pages of Salish design elements from the Bureau of American Ethnology's Forty-first Annual Report--over two hundred patterns and design elements that included: "symbolic diamond shapes, zig-zag, squares, rectangles, V shapes of a wide variety of combinations.... geometric representations of birds, in flight or at rest; of mountains and lightning."

Such is their intricacy that there seems little doubt the designs, forms and elements of the Chilkat Dancing Blankets and Raven's Tail Robes could be considered from more than one viewpoint. Apart from all else Pacific Northwest weavings incorporated complex designs that included "spirit faces," single and double "eyes" and much more as seen in Appendix III in Sheryl Samuel's The Chilkat Dancing Blanket, (1982:208-212). In this work Sheryl Samuel also provides quotations from Florence Shotridge's "The Life of a Chilkat Indian Girl" (1913) including the information that on approaching womanhood a young girl was: "taken by her mother to a special room in the house where she lived. Here she would remain for a season if she was a commoner, four seasons if a daughter of nobility." (Samuel, 1982:128). Both lengthy periods, especially the latter. It seems that: "this time of isolation was a time of learning"-- not only the skills and the crafts, but also the songs of the women. As for the details and the purpose of the initiations, according to Florence Shortridge it may have extended beyond the skills alone, important though they no doubt were:

After the arrival of the missionaries many people became Christians, while others preferred to keep the old-fashioned beliefs and ways of living. With the conversion, seclusion of young girls for a prescribed period just prior to entering the life of woman-hood was strictly observed. It may be doubted whether the missionaries understood its real significance when they opposed the practice. (from Samuel, 1982:130)
What took place in similar cultural contexts throughout the Pacific Northwest and what was passed on may perhaps never be fully recovered, largely because of the tragic losses suffered by Pacific Northwest Indians during the outbreaks of smallpox and other diseases that occurred during the 1850's,1860's and on into the next century. As Anne Cameron recorded movingly in her collection of Nootka oral histories published under the title Daughters of Copper Woman :
Much was lost. Much will never be regained. We have only the shredded fragments of what was once a beautiful dance cape of learning. But torn as it is, fragmented as it is, it is still better than the ideas the invader brought with him.
A few women, old now, and no longer strong. A few elder women who kept alive what the invader tried to destroy. Grandmothers and aunts. Mothers and sisters. Who must be honoured and cherished and protected even at risk of your own life. Who must be respected. At all times respected. Women who Know that which we must try to learn again. Women who provide a nucleus on which we must build again. Women who will share with us if we ask them. Women who love us.
And there are young women now, some of them unlikely seeming candidates, who have been tested and found worthy, and who are learning the old wisdom. Young women who do not always manage to Do what they Know, and so need our love and help.
The dance cape is not complete, the song is not finished, the dance is not entire, the words are not all known. But the need is now and Old Woman is with us, and will help us and come to us when we most need her.
(Anne Cameron,"The Women's Society," Daughters of Copper Woman, Press Gang Publishers, Vancouver, 1981:63)
Thus the dance cape of learning, sisters of softlight and the single bar loom; the latter an invention with origins that extend back to 7000 BCE:
From the beginning of Western history until the Middle Ages, the main weaving tool was this type of loom. Loom weights have been found in Catal Huyuk, an ancient city in Anatolia that dates to 7000 BCE, and use of the warp-weighted loom persists to the present day in part of Norway. Although its particular form has varied through the ages and by locality, its essential parts remained the same.(Smith College of Inventions: The Warp-Weighted loom )
But while a classic, timeless tool, in North America the one bar loom also appears to have been a strong cultural element in the Pacific Northwest as well as the American Southwest. Not that present-day usage is confined to these two regions alone, e.g., it is also being applied to effect in New Zealand (Experiments with a Warp-Weighted loom) and likely in use elsewhere. For more on weaving see: Braid-Weaving, Lucets, Needle-binding, Thread-twisting and Textiles provided byRegia Anglorum, Building a Warp-weighted Loom by Danette Pratt and Weaving on the Warp-Weighted Loom: Some Source Materials by Carolyn Priest-Dorman.

To conclude, the loom is an attested device used by the Vikings that clearly predominates in the Pacific Northwest, and it is also an invention that arrived there before the Spanish, the British or indeed even domestic sheep. But if this is so clear, why has this similarity not been pursued earlier? In a way it has, for in The Chilkat Dancing Blanket (1982:134-135) Sheryl Samuel emphasized the difference between one-bar looms in Pacific Northwest and Scandinavian contexts as follows (figures omitted):

Tabby versus Twining
The single-beam loom used by the Chilkat women to weave the Dancing Blanket has often been mistaken for a warp-weighted loom. This error can be understood as the misinterpretation of an early writer, who, having seen a photograph of a Chilkat loom with its warp tied in bags, thought these bags were rocks hung from the warp ends in order to put tension on them. A knowledge of the weaving processes instantly shows that they are not equivalent: a warp-weighted loom such as that used by the Scandinavians produced a tabby cloth with a single weft traveling over and under every other warp end. On the single-beam loom of the Chilkat Indians, a twined cloth was produced, with two wefts encircling pairs of warped ends. The twined cloth of the single-beam loom is produced by twisting two strands of weft around paired warp-ends. The warp ends remain hanging in a vertical plane. No warp tension is needed, as the weft strands are manipulated entirely by the fingers. The tabby cloth of a warp-weighted loom is woven with the aid of a harness, or a stick, threaded through string loops which are attached to alternate warp ends. When the harness is raised, one-half of the warp ends are lifted and a weft can be passed through the opening or "shed." when the harness is returned to a resting position against the slanting loom posts, the weights pull the warp ends down, forming the opposite shed.
Fig. 228. "A Chilkat loom with gut bags protecting the warp."
Fig. 229. "Chilkat twining is a finger weaving technique and does not need a warp under tension."
Fig. 230. "The operation of a warp-weighted loom requires tension."
Fig. 231. "A Scandinavian loom with weights hanging from the warp."
(Cheryl Samuel, The Chilkat Dancing Blanket, Pacific Search Press, Seattle, 1982:134-35).
All technicalities aside, the above does nothing to change the most important point of all, which is the undoubted use of one-bar looms in both Scandinavia and the Pacific Northwest. Nor does it negate the fact that warp-weight looms were in fact also used in the Pacific Northwest on an as required basis, as Oliver N. Wells (1969:11) has pointed out:
Single Bar or Three piece Loom.
This loom consists of two uprights, which hold a cross bar, which supports the warp. The warp material is passed over a fine rod, which in turn is laced tightly to the cross bar. The warp strands are held taut by weights which are tied to a small group of the strands at their lower extremities. This type of loom was used for mat-making, for the making of cloak blankets and dancing aprons, for the making of rugs, sashes, tump lines etc. The loom's size and features being made to be convenient to work with for the purpose intended. (Oliver N. Wells, SALISH WEAVING: PRIMITIVE AND MODERN, As Practiced by the Salish Indians of Southwest British Columbia, Frank T. Coan, Sardis, 1969:11; emphases supplied).
The last word then? Hardly. The matter is much too extensive and far too complex for that, and also likely global in extent, though some might say "Eternity was born in the village," a quotation from The Village Museum Bucharest and Norsk Folkemuseum in Oslo that closed with the following observation:
Images, traditions and symbols have survived until today in many ethnographic zones because they have been connected with life and beliefs. This factor explains their continuity and longevity. No matter how we view them, as symbol, attribute, allegory or analogy, all the ornaments in folk art have a common factor: they represent meanings and signs of communication at an intellectual level. In addition, the symbol is much more than a sign, going beyond ordinary significance. An ornamental circle shaped like a rosette can be a sign, but it is also directly related to the sun, with the cosmic cycle, with the myth of eternity. Its symbolic value is an axiomatic image which becomes a record of the ancient civilisations of the land where the Romanian nation was founded. It must not be forgotten that the association of an ornament with a certain significance is conventional, in the same way that a word may be associated with an image. A certain representation might evoke a different meaning within another culture or another époque. The pattern itself is only a sign from a code, but we should bear in mind the fact that the cultural background of humanity does not recognise the choice between meaning and object.

Georgeta Stoica and Ioan Godea

Oslo, June 1996

Lastly, before moving on to Helluland, Markland and Vinland in Part VII, some may wish to dwell on the implications of RongoRongo and the Raven's Tail.
Some may not...

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Part 11: Helluland, Markland and Vinland

Introduction to The Last Viking
Part   1. Viking Press and Viking Ships

Part   2. West by Northwest
Part   3. Three Steps Back
  4. The Nova Groenlandiae Map
Part   5. The Mysterious Akilinik of the Greenlanders
Part   6. Symbols, Markers and Indicators
Part   7. Reflections in the King's Mirror
Part   8. South by Southeast
Part   9. The Copper Canoe
Part 10. The Warp and the Weave [ Current selection ]
Part 11. Helluland, Markland and Vinland
Part 12. The Golden Apples of the Sun

Maps:  Partial Map Listing forThe Last Viking

Postscript 1:
A Fir Tree of the Mind (pdf)
Postscript 2: RongoRongo and the Raven's Tail

OTHER: Easter Island Stone Structures

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Copyright © 1999. John N. Harris, M.A.(CMNS). Last Updated on December 22,2023.