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Spindle Whorl

Curated Submission
Musqueam, British Columbia
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
Materials & techniques
Yellow cedar; Carving
Joe Becker
Delta Museum and Archives Society DE1995.25.2
A spindle whorl such as this was used to assist in twisting fibres into thread, a common but essential task for families. The whorl provides the same simple machine benefit to the spindle as a flywheel, as the spindle continues to turn at a high speed with less effort once inertia is overcome. With the whorl, a spindle could be made more effective and less tiring to use. The weight also helped maintain the speed of the tools used, making the spindle easier to use once the technique was mastered. The whorl was made using traditional carving with a drawn knife technique, where the cutting tool is pulled toward the body, as opposed to a push knife technique where the knife is pushed away.
This whorl, crafted by Joe Becker of Musqueam, British Columbia, is a modern rendition of the thunder lizard story from the Musqueam people. It was common for items that would be highly prized by the owner to depict stories important to family group identity. In Musqueam beliefs the lizard, or salamander, symbolizes the ability to change and regenerate, which was central to their approach to the land. This capacity has become especially relevant in the years following the closure of residential schools in British Columbia, supporting the conviction in the ability to heal as a people and re-establish cultural identity.
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