Bentwood box of the Haida people

Late 1800s

Bentwood boxes are traditional products made by First Nations peoples of the West Coast of North America, including the Haida.

The sides of this box are made from a single length of wood, curved to form three corners and closed with a tight seam at the fourth.

Bentwood storage boxes that were meant to store valuable items were provided with guardian spirit decoration, in the form of supernatural sea beings and more familiar animals.

The front of the box normally depicts Konankada, the ruler of the underwater world, with fins as well as human hands. The face has double eye shapes (two salmon heads joined at the nose). This supernatural being can be modified by adding markers such as large incisors (beaver), gill slits (dogfish), large canines (wolf), large ears and protruding tongue (bear), etc.

Cedar work was characteristic of the technology of Pacific Northwest Coast groups, particularly the Haida who excelled in the manufacture of canoes and airtight boxes.

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The Haida people

The Haida are an indigenous people living primarily on the Pacific Northwest coast of Canada and the United States. Famous for their remarkably expressive art and carving skills, the Haida are renowned for their monumental totem poles, carved masks, ritual objects, and beautifully decorated canoes. Their art is steeped in spirituality and symbolism, telling stories of clans, ancestors and the relationship between man and nature. Haida carvings are distinguished by their elegant lines, intricate detailing, and depiction of the supernatural. Despite historical and cultural challenges, contemporary Haida artists continue to carry on these ancient artistic traditions, helping to preserve their rich cultural heritage.