Quebec History Marianopolis College

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L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


Cements Used by Indians



[This text was originally published in 1907 by the Bureau of American Ethnology as part of its Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico . It was later reproduced, in 1913, by the Geographic Board of Canada. The work done by the American Bureau was monumental, well informed and incorporated the most advanced scholarship available at the time. In many respects, the information is still useful today, although prudence should be exercised and the reader should consult some of the contemporary texts on the history and the anthropology of the North American Indians suggested in the bibliographic introduction to this section. The articles were not completely devoid of the paternalism and the prejudices prevalent at the time. While some of the terminology used would not pass the test of our "politically correct" era, most terms have been left unchanged by the editor. If a change in the original text has been effected it will be found between brackets [.] The original work contained long bibliographies that have not been reproduced for this web edition. For the full citation, see the end of the text.]



The Indians used cements of animal, vegetal, and mineral origin, and sometimes combined two of these or added mineral substances for colouring. Animal ce­ment was obtained by the Yokuts of Cali­fornia by boiling the joints of various animals and combining the product with pitch (Powers, Tribes of Cal ., 373, 1877). The Hupa boiled the gland of the lower jaw and nose of the sturgeon and dried the products in balls (Ray in Smithson. Rep., 229, 1888). Capt. John Smith states that with sinew of deer and the tops of deer horns boiled to a jelly the Virginia Indians made glue that would not dissolve in cold water. The Plains tribes boiled the skin of the head of animals until it was softened into glue, which they dried in masses on sticks. Such glue-sticks formed a part of the equipment of the bow-and-arrow maker, and the horn arrow-straighteners of the S. W. tribes are often filled with resin. Sometimes one end of the hearth of the fire-drill bears a mass of resin, as a convenient way to carry this substance, which may readily be melted at the fire and applied to various uses. Wax and albumen from eggs had a limited use, and the [Inuit] used blood mixed with soot. The chief use of animal cement was in the manufacture of bows and arrows, and, among the Plains tribes, in joining the stems of cer­tain kinds of pipes. The only mineral cement known to the tribes was bitumen, which was used by the Indians of S. Arizona and California. Vegetal cements were numerous,. and chief among these was the exudation from coniferous trees, employed by northern tribes for pitching the seams of bark canoes, baskets etc.      


Source: James WHITE, ed., Handbook of Indians of Canada , Published as an Appendix to the Tenth Report of the Geographic Board of Canada , Ottawa , 1913, 632p., p. 84.

© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College