NativeTech: Native American Technology and Art.

Birchbark Transparensies
Birchbark Cutouts

Birch bark bitten patterns, also called dental pictographs, are made by Native American women and children of the Great Lakes and northern New England regions. Made from the carefully pealed layers of the inner bark of the Betula papyrifera, or paper birch, the sheets are folded into quarters or eights. The folded sheet is bitten, or indented, using the eye and side teeth using fingers to help guide the placement of the pattern. When the paper is unfolded and held up to the light the translucent paper becomes transparent and luminous where the symmetrical bite marks appear.

Transparencies were often used to guide beadwork patterns sewn onto clothing; one bite mark for each bead would ensure the symmetrical placement of the pattern. When beadwork was completed and sewn on to the article, the birch paper could be easily torn away from the beads sewn over it.

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© 1994 - Tara Prindle
unless otherwise cited.