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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


March 8 , 2003 - Issue 82


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Mary Ann from Bright Ring Publishing, Inc., has generously allowed us to share some of her art and craft ideas with you. You can find more activities on her site at

In this issue, we are sharing two types of scrimshaw. The first used whale ivory, and the other is from bones of other animals. Be sure and have an adult supervise these projects.

More than 85 percent of Greenland is covered in thick ice all year round. It is the largest island in the world and lies mostly north of the Arctic circle. Fishing is a major industry, and in the past, whaling held great importance. Whalers developed scrimshaw, or scratching and engraving lines into ivory - whales teeth and bone. Ink was rubbed into the scratches, producing a picture. Through scrimshaw, whalers could record observations and stories they wanted to tell and remember.


  • White plastic dishwashing detergent bottle
  • scissors
  • sharp nail
  • charcoal or markers
  • hole punch
  • soft cloth
  • cord or string
  • dry soup bone, optional
  1. Wash out a dish washing detergent bottle until no suds remain. This can take longer than you think!
  2. Then dry.
  3. With scissors, cut the top and bottom of the bottle away. More drying may be needed, especially inside. Adult help will be needed.
  4. Next, cut a piece of white plastic from the bottle to use for a piece of "whale's tooth" or "ivory."
  5. Hold the plastic firmly on the work surface. Scratch a design into the white plastic with the nail.
  6. Next, rub charcoal or markers over the lines to fill in the scratches. Then rub away the excess with a soft cloth or fingers. Go back and make more scratches and colors as desired.
  7. Punch a hole at the top of the design with the hole punch. Insert a cord or string to make a pendant on a necklace or to make a loop for hanging.
  8. Wear or display the scrimshaw. Make more from the rest of the bottle.


  • NOTE: The next time there is a clean, dry soup bone around, try this same procedure on the bone.



  • prepared plaster of Paris
  • meat tray
  • paper clip
  • pencil
  • black shoe polish
  1. Prepare plaster of Paris and pour it into an empty meat Styrofoam container.
  2. Wait approximately five minutes for the plaster of Paris to be almost hard. Then scratch a scene using paper clips or a dull pencil.
  3. When the picture is finished, allow the plaster of become completely hard. Next rub a small amount of black shoe polish across the finished engraving.
  4. Wait about 24 hours before removing the plaster from the meat tray.

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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