Day listens to a Western cedar log to know if it split cleanly.
a cedar-working demonstration Saturday outside the University of
Oregon's Natural History Museum, Day could hear a person miss the
mark after swinging a cedar mallet into a handmade wedge of yew.
hear the wood, listen to the tree, and it tells you if it's splitting,"
sound of wood cracking, much like the crack of a baseball bat, is
desired, said Day, a UO anthropology student and a member of the
Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.
led a team of six Grand Ronde tribal members in a demonstration
of traditional plank-splitting techniques in the museum's courtyard.
The planks created during the demonstration will be used to construct
a coastal plank house for the museum's "Oregon - Where Past
is Present" exhibit, which opens in October.
exhibit is a restoration of our culture that was taken away from
Indians. For 100 years we were not allowed to participate in tribal
practices. This is a return of our cultural values," said David
Lewis, a UO anthropology graduate student and a Grand Ronde tribal
teachings also teach that cedar be regarded and gathered with reverence,
respect and gratitude, Day said.
is more than a tree to the Indian people. It is a general store,
a place of worship and an integral part of sacred ceremonies, Day
said. Each piece of cedar tree, from root to crown, is used with
nothing going to waste, he said. The tree's bark is used for clothing,
its root structure for baskets and the bows are burnt as incense,
known as the tree of life," he said.
red cedar intersperses itself between Douglas fir, alder and big
leaf maple along the Pacific coast from Northern California to southeastern
Alaska. It stands out in the forest, with its drooping, spreading
branches that turn upward at the tips. And unlike the fir's sharp
needles, the cedar's leaves are flat and smooth, with plaited scales.
Up close the tree is fragrant, especially after a rain storm, Day
said it is important to re-establish traditional cedar-working methods
- which involve no metal saws or chain saws - and pass it on to
a broader audience. He estimates only three people at the UO campus
know about Native American cedar splitting.
two dozen visitors had a hands-on opportunity to learn about traditional
16, of Eugene, took a mighty swing of a cedar mallet and cleanly
split an 8-foot section of the tree.
pretty informative to learn how to split cedar and wood, and you
can have fun, too," she said.