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09 November, 2014

Woodpecker D Adze

This is an adze that I made in more or less traditional Salish style, what anthropologists call the "D-adze" because of the handle shape.

The blade was made from a chunk of serpentine I picked up from a road cut on Cypress Island, ground down by rubbing it on concrete. Lashing is split cedar root over pine sap. The wood is the only non-local material, being from a black walnut board my dad bought decades ago in Ohio (which has been dragged to Virginia and now Washington, awaiting the time when I'd figure out what to do with it).

Salish adzes were sometimes adorned, and I chose to put a woodpecker head on this one. At first, it was because I wanted to stick with a fairly literal image (woodpeckers being carvers, like adzes), since I don't know enough about the person or Tribe I was making it for to choose something for its cultural significance or meaning. On the night before I gave it, though, I ran across a story of Dokwibatl, who came across a man who was trying to chop down a tree by banging his head on it, and transformed the poor human into a woodpecker. My intent with this gift was to honor a man who helped in my transformation from ignorant outsider to reasonably competent Northwest archaeologist, and so the woodpecker seems apt.

The wood that became this adze handle came from the same board that I carved into a sturgeon years ago, and which I gave to the Chair of Lower Elwha. The adze went to the Chair of Swinomish (who is also president of NCAI these days), with a special thanks to the THPO of that tribe. In between, another sturgeon went to Nisqually, a big halibut serving tray to Suquamish, and a stone fish club to a young Skokomish fisherman.

I'm not a talented carver, but not a horrible one either, and I still have all my fingers. I have not even attempted to match the Native Northwest formline style, and may never feel adequate to do so. I've never sold a piece, but I enjoy giving them away, and feel like I've been paid more than enough by having the chance to give them to host Tribes and have them be accepted. It's a lucky life.

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