The art and craftwork of the Anishinabek is reflective of the land we live on and is founded on a spirituality as enduring as the earth. Before contact, our art was directed to the decoration of useful objects. Much of it was made in connection with spiritual ceremonies which permeated every act of living. Anishinabek people had no word for art as art was a part of life, like hunting, fishing, growing food, raising a family. Thus art in the broadest sense represented objects of daily usefulness to be admired and appreciated, nurturing the needs of both soul and body thereby giving meaning to everything.
Porcupine Quill Boxes
The aesthetic sense is strong within the Anishinabek. It is not enough to make a garment. It has to be embroidered with quills or moosehair and after the arrival of Europeans, with beads. It is equally necessary to incorporate a pattern into the fashioning of a container or into the weave of a black ash basket.
Among the arts inherited by the Ojibwe, Odawa, Pottawatomi and other Woodland tribes, is the use of porcupine quills for decorative purposes. The art of quillwork is probably the most laborious of the applied arts requiring hours of patience and creativity. A strong reserve of self-discipline is necessary for this fine work.
Most of the remaining quill workers come from the communities of Wikwemikong, and M’Chigeeng on Manitoulin Island and along the North Shore of Lake Huron in communities like Spanish River.
Quillwork was highly developed as an artform before the arrival of Europeans and continues to be a fine and unique art displaying the resourcefulness, creativity and ingenuity of the Anishinabek people.