A classic-style Coast Salish blanket, which includes a mixture of woolly dog and goat wool. The woolly dog wool is in the warp (vertical strands). Accessioned 1858. Collection notes.
Coast Salish tribal nations in Washington state and British Columbia bred and cared for woolly dogs for thousands of years. Prized for their thick undercoats, the dogs were sheared like sheep and often kept in pens or on islands to carefully manage their breeding and to care for the canines’ health and vitality. Coast Salish weavers used the dogs’ wool to craft blankets and other woven items that served a variety of ceremonial and spiritual purposes.
“We were very excited to participate in a study that embraces the most sophisticated Western science with the most established Traditional Knowledge,” said Michael Pavel, an Elder from the Skokomish/Twana Coast Salish community in Washington, who remembers hearing about woolly dogs early in his childhood. “It was incredibly rewarding to contribute to this effort to embrace and celebrate our understanding of the woolly dog.”
Despite their disappearance, the memory of woolly dogs is still embedded into Coast Salish society. And Pavel thinks their understanding of woolly dogs is only getting clearer thanks to the new research effort.