Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cross-cultural appreciation for cedar bark weaving

While at the Planet IndigenoUS Festival, my friends Jules and Jake offered to pose wearing my woven cedar bark hat. Both Jules and Jake are of Cree ancestry from Northern Ontario and shared their admiration for the support I received from the Canada Council for the Arts Aboriginal Collaborative Exchange Travel Grant to preserve the cedar bark harvest and weaving traditions of the Nuu-chah-nulth on Vancouver Island.

I have found wearing my cedar bark hat was a natural conversation starter and consistently stirred surprise when I explained I made it with the help of a weaving mentor Geraldine Edgar Tom and support from Canada Council for the Arts. Seeing people wear these beautiful cedar bark woven creations are commonplace back home in BC and is a welcome sight to my west coast eyes to see my growing urban community of friends willing to try the hat on while at the Toronto 2009 Harbroufront Planet IndigenoUS Festival.

Sharing the joy of cedar bark @ Planet IndigenoUS

Planet IndigenoUS Master of Ceremony and CBC anchor Carla Robinson photographed here looking stunning in the cedar bark hat I learned to weave from mentor Geraldine Edgar Tom thanks to the Aboriginal Collaborative Exchange Travel Grant I was awarded.

Carla and I have known one another for the past couple decades after meeting while we both attended Carleton University in Ottawa back in the late 1980s! Both being from BC offers some wild west coast spirited energy as we both live so far from home! The cedar tree, including the bark are both a major part of our respective Nuu-chah-nulth and Kitimat cultures. Carla wears my cedar woven hat with a natural west coast flare!

Thanking Canada Council for the Arts @ Planet IndigenoUS

While working at the 2009 Harbourfront Centre's Planet IndigenoUS Festival at the Association for Native Development in the Performing and Visual Arts - ANDPVA information table - I brought my cedar bark hat, hairbands I have woven since returning from my BC harvest and sample pieces of cedar bark to clean and prepare for weaving.

The public who visited the ANDPVA information table were also drawn in to ask what I was busy doing. One woman who appeared to speak little English asked if what I was weaving with was the skin of the tree? I clarified that is exactly what the cedar bark was. She nodded in understanding.

This connection with international festival goers was an ideal venue to explain to people my gratitude for the weaving mentorship of Geraldine Edgar Tom due to the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts Aboriginal Collaborative Exchange Travel Grant that allowed me to fly home to BC to participate in the annual cedar bark harvest that must happen before the end of June.

Wish come true with support from Canada Council for the Arts

Happy to update my creative happenings by publicly thanking Canada Council for the Arts honouring me with an Aboriginal Collaborative Exchange Travel Grant to go home this past June 2009 to harvest cedar bark and learn to weave a traditional Nuu-chah-nulth hat from weaving mentor Geraldine Edgar Tom.

A seven-day whiiiiiiiirlwind trip to Vancouver Island is what I was able to enjoy with support from the Aboriginal Collaborative Exchange Travel Grant. Prior to meeting with weaving mentor Geraldine Edgar Tom to harvest cedar in the Ditidaht territory, I was able to also meet with a number of additional cedar bark weavers. There were National Aboriginal Day Celebrations with BBQ sockeye salmon to greet me and my 10-month old son in Port Alberni in the Nuu-chah-nulth southern region on Vancouver Island. I enjoyed seeing how innovative other cedar bark weavers were in how they worked with weaving in different ways. Weaving ranged from traditional headbands and capes worn as regalia for ceremonial occasions, as well as modern earrings, hairbands, bracelets and embellished picture frames. I was able to learn various techniques and teachings from our common Nuu-chah-nulth ancestry that ranged from very formal discussions of the ceremonial gratitude involved with the harvest to the innovative modern alternatives, like glass or plastic salad bowls used as a mold to weave our traditionally shaped hats. The bowl suggestions came with a warning that people will likely laugh at me as I try the bowl on my head for size.

Uu-shuck-she-clayets-thanks to Geraldine Edgar Tom for her time, teachings and inspiration to be a part of the next generation to preserve the timeless Nuu-chah-nulth weaving techniques. Uu-shuck-she-clayets-thanks to Delores Baine, Maria Seitcher, Alice Sam, Julie Joseph, Katie and Laura Fraser for sharing your inspiring mastery of your weaving craft and encouragement! Uu-shuck-she-clayets-thanks to the ancestral territory of Ditidaht for sharing a part of your rain forest to bring back to Toronto and carry on Nuu-chah-nulth weaving traditions in big city of three-million! Uu-shuck-she-clayets-Thanks again to the Canada Council for the Arts Aboriginal Collaborative Exchange Travel Grant Program for their generous support and continued efforts to assist with the preservation of Indigenous art forms for future generations to enjoy!