Grand Hall tour

Bentwood boxes

CMC VII-B-320 Bentwood boxes are on display inside some of the houses, in front of certain poles and in the exhibit Tsimshian Prehistory. Bentwood boxes were made in all sizes, and were used to store food, clothing and many household and ceremonial items. Some were painted and others were elaborately carved, but the majority were left undecorated. Contemporary artists have revived the art of making bentwood boxes.

These boxes demonstrate the remarkable carpentry of the West Coast people. The sides were made from a single plank of cedar; it was bevelled or kerfed to allow the four sides to be bent into a box shape. After careful shaping of the plank, it was steamed, bent and sewn together using cedar roots or wooden pegs. The base was prepared so that the edges fitted snugly into the bottom, creating a watertight box. A lid was then added.

Source: N. Ruddell, Raven's Village, 1995
(A) tool for bending the wood

(B) box in process of being bent

(C) sides lashed and sewn together

(D) box, top and bottom

(E) completed bentwood boxes

(illustration by Irvine Scalplock)

This bentwood box was made by the Bella Bella and later acquired (probably through trade) by the Haida. The carved and painted designs show Bear and Whale.

Click on the image of the box to see a Quicktime VR object movie (551K) of the box. This movie can be viewed with any Quicktime player, but is best viewed using Apple's Quicktime VR Player. If you wish to download the Quicktime VR Player (for Macintosh, Windows 3.1, or Windows 95) click on the logo:


  • Photography: Harry Foster
  • Production: Romy Randev