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Cowichan sweaters were a staple wardrobe item for shacktenters and early visitors to PANP. Historically, these sweaters were sometimes called Siwash sweaters, a derogatory Chinook word for Indigenous or Indian people. After the 1950s the Cowichan people insisted on the name Cowichan for the sweaters as a way of emphasizing that the garments originated with them.
The Coastal Salish people in the Cowichan Valley north of Victoria, British Columbia processed the raw wool and designed and knitted the sweaters. Each design was unique and the complex patterns were kept in the knitter's memory, not written down. These warm and water resistant sweaters were perfectly suited to the cold, windy, rainy days or cool evenings, which were interspersed betweenthe sunny, warm beach days for which Waskesiu is known.
The sweaters were so long wearing they were passed down through families. Many families had a “resident” Cowichan sweater that hung in the cabin ready for anyone one to don for a quick trip to the community toilet building, to wear on a cool early morning fishing trip, or to bundle up in after a chilly swimming lesson on the Main Beach at Waskesiu.
At one time, Cowichan sweaters were sold from several different retail outlets in Waskesiu for fifteen to twenty-five dollars. In time, many Saskatchewan knitters created prairie versions of these popular, long wearing sweaters which were handed down from the oldest to the youngest child of the family.
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