Monday, October 5, 2009

generations of weavers...

My brother is a master weaver...his work has been published in the Native People's magazine and he is recognized throughout the Northwest for his's a sample of his work:
Pictured here is a hip bag he wove many years ago - the fibre used here is cornhusk a traditional Indian weaving material he is particularly noted for. The design is traditional arrows.

So this being said, my brother was invited to the Northwest Native American Basketweavers Association annual conference as one of their presenters. He invited me along as his assistant and I gladly went, I hadn't gone before and I just KNEW it would be an adventure of epic was. We got to the conference (in beautiful Chehalis country) and on our first day (Friday) we dressed for the occasion - which is how we were taught by Atway Calvin Shillal.

It was a very casual and relaxed atmosphere, I don't think I've been to any other conference that was run like this. We got right down to the business of sharing with others our particular style of weaving - we made them small kits for projects so that they would complete either a small basket or flat bag. Throughout the morning you would hear shouts from other tables "So and So completed their first cedar basket" and then loud cheers from around the room. It was probably the most positive and encouraging activity I've ever participated in. As those around our table were working out their projects you could just see in their eyes the excitement of learning yet another amazing craft done by our grandmothers and great grandmothers before us. Stories were shared throughout the day about how they used to see THIS grandma do this or they would see THAT auntie trading her baskets for things.

One of the things I absolutely loved about this was that there were all ages our table we had some beautiful young ladies weaving their small flat bags...they showed hope for our nations - these women were respectful of their elders, spoke about positive issues they were aware of and in general demonstrated that our tribal youth, when given a vision and path to follow are willing and eager to walk along with the grandmas and aunties they know.

After our first day ended we were making our way through the vendors and happend to stop at one booth where I saw these beaded spiders in all different colors. The woman in the booth noticed that I was looking closer at them and told us this story: These spiders were made by Jicarilla Apache women (the booth owner and her daughter). Long ago, Grandmother Spider was a very skilled weaver who's webs were tight enough to carry is Grandmother Spider who taught the Jicarilla Apache people how to weave...if you have time, look up more stories about her, shie's quite the amazing one.

It had been an exhausting but amazing day...when we got back to our room we thought were going to do other things but both of us ended up sleeping REALLY well that night.

Day two came about with a sunrise like you only see in Western Washington, sparkling through the trees with cheerful hope, tickling your spirit to awaken you gently but bright enough to mean GOOD MORNING.

This day more women finished their little bags and I marveled at the intricate patterns woven into their first flat bag ever!

I also enjoyed the hard work and cheerful buzz of conversation as we worked through our second day of weaving. More announcements of first projects and cheers from the room...

After our weaving conference ended we were honored to be invited to dinner at the brand new Chehalis Tribal Center. We were welcomed by Dan G a Chehalis tribal council member and after a few raffle items were announced we got to go through the line to eat some of the best seafood imaginable prepared for us by Chehalis tribal elders!

A Chehalis tribal canoe family shared with us some songs and dances and then a Quileute group also shared their songs, dances and a few stories. Coast tribe songs are filled with such rich strength and stories. One of the Quileute songs and dances talks about how the bird was the Watcher, as the Watcher he went about the land looking and seeing what was being done...he happened to see the Killer Whale come up to the shore and turn itself into a Wolf so he could go and live as a Wolf among the turn, the Wolf went to the shore and turned himself into a Whale so he could go swim about and see what was under water. The Bird watched these things happen and saved them to tell his children about and that's where the dance came from.

I found it all to be almost more than words can say...

To end such an amazing weekend we stopped by to see my littlest grand-daughter Nellie who greeted us with big smiles, patted us on our faces and then sent us home with warmth and love surrounding us.

All things being said and done it was just SO WONDERFUL to get home to be greeted by our faithful friends Rocky and Sandy

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