Page:The American Indian.djvu/127

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87
DESIGN AREAS

exception geometric, while bags show two forms—purely textile geometric and realistic animal figures. Drawing and sketching upon birchbark was developed almost to the point of writing and in that sense was not decorative. It was, however, entirely pictographic. Wooden objects were not infrequently adorned with incised curved designs somewhat like the floral effects in beads. The chief differences, therefore, between the two sub-centers are the disturbing textile developments in the west, with a decided realistic tendency in beadwork, while in the east freehand double-curve floral figures prevailed. The similarities are in the more fundamental character—a predominatingly freehand floral decoration. In the preceding areas we found textiles or embroidery techniques in the majority, and at the same time the decorative art was geometric. But here in the north and east we find textiles extremely weak; yet, when they do appear they tend to geometric forms. Beadwork, however, more often followed the freehand motives than not. So we see here the suggestion of a chronological relation in that this particular beaded art was derived from bark and skin decorations.

The extreme floral character of some of this beadwork has led many to regard the whole as a post-Columbian development. The very wide distribution of the Cree and Montagnais, together with their very early intimate association with French colonists, presents a favorable condition to rapid diffusion. Yet, the very characteristic double-curve art on bark and painted skins cannot be attributed to Europeans. All that can reasonably be conceded is that their trade stimulated the use of beads, and their decorative preferences tended to emphasize the old floral character. On the other hand, there seems not the least reason to doubt that the very striking beaded flowers of the west are due to European influence.

Strange to say, all the regions we have so far considered are almost completely innocent of carving or modeling in the round, everything being flat. But we now turn to the North Pacific Coast and Eskimo areas where carving is the leading art. Faint traces of carving appear at the northern border of California and grow stronger as we ascend the coast until we