03/22/2012 02:07 EDT | Updated 05/22/2012 05:12 EDT

The Cowichan Sweater: What Is It And Why Is It Important To Canada?


OTTAWA - The distinctive Cowichan sweater of B.C.'s Coast Salish First Nation has graced the bodies of people worldwide, and now it's being recognized by the Canadian government.

The bold, patterned sweater is one of 13 First Nations items, sites or persons that Ottawa has designated as having national historic significance.

Environment Minister Peter Kent announced the designations Thursday, saying they bring to life the spiritual, cultural and physical ties that First Nations have in Canada.

The Coast Salish of the Cowichan Valley on southern Vancouver Island, have combined ancient wool working with European knitting to construct Cowichan sweaters dating back to the late 19th century.

Also making the distinction is the basket making of the Nlaka'pamux (ent-lah-cap-um) First Nation near Ashcroft.

The government says the long practice of basket making passed down through generations of women embodies their role as culture bearers.

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