Porcupine quill work is the ultimate example of true Aboriginal craftsmanship. However this has become a traditional knowledge on the brink of extinction and very soon the art of porcupine quill work will be lost forever. There are many factors contributing to the loss of this ancient craft and unfortunately there doesn't seem much possibility of preserving this art.
The natural resources needed to create a porcupine quill box are birch bark, quills, sweetgrass and the traditional knowledge
Birch bark can only be collected once an year IF the birch tree is healthy enough to share it's bark. Once the bark has been collected - it must be left to dry for approximately 6 months or longer. This is to allow the bark to dry naturally and warp as the bark must- the quill work can only begin once the bark is dried and ready. The health of the birch trees make it difficult to obtain any bark. In the past, birch trees grew to majestic heights allowing us to harvest massive sheets of bark, large enough to make canoes. Today, pollution and our chemical society has rendered the birch bark small, weak and not healthy enough to share it's bark. It goes against traditional Aboriginal beliefs to take anything from the tree if it would harm the tree, which effectively limits the bark harvest.
Sweetgrass which is used to bind the quill boxes is also becoming a victim of our society. Sweetgrass needs a swampy environment to grow and all our swamplands are disappearing due to development.
The porcupine quills are becoming more and more scarce as the porcupine's natural habitat is being paved over for the never ending urban sprawl. The porcupine quills are collected from ‘road kill’ as it is against Aboriginal belief to let an animal’s life be lost to waste.
And lastly our people that have the traditional knowledge of this amazing art are leaving us and with their passing the gone too is the knowledge.
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