Treasured by natives
Among the Woodlands Indians, such embellished knives as these were — and still are — passed on from generation to generation to help preserve the heritage of tribal culture.
     For thirty-four more full-page, photos of embellished mocotaugans, see the book, pp. 59 ff.



In 1696, after escaping from a year-long captivity by the Maliseet Indians of Maine, the English adventurer Captain John Gyles wrote that part of every native man’s equipment was a most “peculiar” knife.
     Just a year earlier, the French missionary Father Sebastian Rasles had published a French-Abanaki dictionary that identified that same kind of knife as a couteau croche (hooked knife.)
     Although struck by the daily widespread use of the tool among the natives they observed, neither man probably ever really knew of the exceptional history and nature of the peculiar, crooked knife.
     Over the centuries, many other people than Gyles and Rasles remarked on the importance of this knife in the daily lives of the Woodlands people. For example:

BLUE COAT, a Northern Cree, early 20th century: “The most valuable things that I own are my axe, my wife and my crooked knife.”

JOHN WESLEY POWELL, noted explorer, in the Report of the United States Bureau of Ethnology, 1897: “No [Northeastern Woodlands man] ever goes off on a journey without this knife, no matter how short the distance … and [he uses the knife] to make one thousand and one indispensable objects.”

CARL RUSSELL, in Firearms, Traps and Tools of the Mountain Men, 1967: “Almost unknown today, this knife is one of the most distinctive antiquities of the ‘Man of the North’.”