“Tumplines” – a Look at the History and Ethnobiology of Northwest Coast Burden Straps, paper presentation.
Main Johnson, Leslie
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The burden straps called “tumplines” in the anthropological literature are a distinctive carrying device used by Gitksan, Witsuwit’en and other peoples of the northwestern part of British Columbia, Canada. The burden straps are warp-faced patterned straps woven from yarn with either a string or yarn weft, and are typically 3 or 4 meters in length and about 6 cm wide. They are woven with a rigid –heddle technology unlike other local weaving and basketry techniques. The straps were employed in a number of different ways to carry burdens and children in the recent past. These enigmatic straps are considered traditional, and there are Gitksan and Witsuwit’en terms for the straps and the rigid heddle frames they are woven on. This paper will examine evidence for the origin of burden strap technology, and will describe uses, patterns, and ethnographic contexts.