Many cultures have practiced the “Oral Tradition” as a way of retaining and passing on important information about their own personal an communal history stories, about how they came into existence, and about how they are expected to live to be spiritual and physical humans who function well in communities of other living plants, animals, and peoples.
Practicing traditional skills that are related to this original way of living could include, for example: seasonal hunting, fishing, and gathering of foods and medicines from land and sea; food and medicine preparation and curing for later use; carving of canoes, poles, tools and implements, and other woodworking; weaving of mats, sails, clothing, blankets and basketry; cordage-making and net-making; story-telling, dancing and song-making; making products for teaching, practicing spirituality, and for ceremony.
The Lushootseed languages, or Salt Water languages, were spoken by the Salish People’s, but this language was not written down on paper, or in books, until the Twentieth Century. Tulalip Story Teller and Cultural Teacher, Johnny Moses stated: ” Many think that We didn’t have a written language, but our stories were written on the baskets.”
Two years ago Suquamish Elder, Ed Carriere, a Master Basket Weaver, Canoe Builder, Wood-Worker, and Culture Carrier, began a journey into ancient Salish weaving with Archaeologist Dale Croes. Dale, who has spent his career unearthing fragments of ancient basketry from wetsites throughout the Pacific Northwest, has always wanted to learn to weave baskets. Ed, who has spent his life making Salish basketry, along side of his career as a Machinist at Keyport, Washington, has always been interested in learning more about the sciences relating to his knowledge of plant fiber use in traditional basketry from his Suquamish Culture.
A book is on the way about the work Ed and Dale have been doing together in Experimental Archaeology. Title: RE-AWAKENING A 2,000 YEAR OLD SALISH SEA BASKETRY TRADITION AND SHARING IT AROUND THE WORLD; MASTER SALISH BASKETMAKER AND WET SITE ARCHAEOLOGISST EXPLORE 100 GENERATIONS OF ULTURAL KNOWLEDGE.
In these past two years of working together Ed and Dale have presented their story of working together, which they define as Generationally-linked archaeology, to national and international Archaeology Conferences in Florida, England, Vancouver BC, even traveling to the island of Hokkaido Japan to visit and share information with the Indigenous Ainu People’s. In September Ed and Dale were recipients of the Washington State Historical Society’s Peace and Friendship Award. And next up, Ed and Dale may be traveling next November to Morvan France to present at the European Archaeological Centre of Mont-Beuvray!
I asked Ed if her ever dreamed that his knowledge and practice of the craft of weaving with plants would bring him around the world? “No, not really”, he chuckles. After Ed gave his presentation about his work recreating basketry from fragments as old as 4500 years to a full house of over 100 people at the Bainbridge Artisans Resource Network, (BARN), he said he was happy. His 9 year old great-grandson, Cody, came along and assisted Ed during the program. Josh Mason, a current student of Ed’s from the Squaxin community, also came along to support Ed.
I was happy too, because of Ed’s generousity. He was the first presentor for the Fiber Arts program at this beautiful new center for artisans on Bainbridge Island, Washington. Built upon land that has been inhabited by the Salish Peoples for thousands of years, it seemed appropriate that this new “place for Makers” begin with a representative from the Salish Weaving Culture.
Many thanks to Ed Carriere for sharing his amazing work with all of us present on June 9th. What was most outstanding about the evening, was that Ed let everyone hold each of the baskets he brought along. He remembered what the late Upper Skagit Elder, Vi Hilbert, had once said: “The Baskets are like living individuals. They have something different to teach each person that holds them.”