Skip to main content

Nuu Chah Nulth Gaming Mat

Curated Submission
Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Early 1900s
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
Materials & techniques
Natural fibres, cedar; Twining, weaving, dyeing
Alberta Johnstone
Delta Museum and Archives Society DE1990.62.10
Games played an important part in the Nuu Chah Nulth community of the west coast, particularly during potlatch, a ceremonial gift-giving celebration. Although not every facet of gaming is understood today, games played diverse roles in wealth distribution, diplomacy, social relations, and education. The exact function of this intricately woven gaming mat has been unfortunately lost to time. While the original colouring has faded, the motif of the sun as the central focus is still clearly visible. The distinctive weaving method created the impression of lines radiating from the centre, mimicking the sun itself.
Surrounding the sun are several other shapes created with dyed interwoven sweetgrass. The outer shapes appear to be stylized eagles – a common motif in the Nuu Chah Nulth tradition. The eagle, prevalent on the west coast, was important as a symbol of strength and self-possession. The original vibrant colours are visible on the reverse and appear as vivid yellow, blue, red, and brown. The aniline dyes used in creating the gaming mat indicate that it was created after European settlement in North America.

Submit a related artifact
Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to Pinterest Email More...

Main sponsors

  • Logo of the Imperial Oil Foundation with accompanying characteristic oval 'Esso' symbol.

Institutional partners