Over the past thirty years, it has been a great honor for me to be a witness to what could be called a cultural revival, renewal, or renaissance, within the local Puget Sound First Peoples communities where I live. I’ve directly benefited from this rebirth of cultural and ecological knowledge and the ways of thinking about learning and being an artist. This ‘renaissance’ is improving the health and vitality of the members of local First Peoples communities, and the resulting leadership and influence provides many benefits to all of us.
I practice what I call a traditional living art form. The knowledge of using fibers from plants to make all sorts of material items for specific purposes has been developed and practiced over thousands of years by local First Peoples. A living teacher, living plants, and living students, are all necessary to properly learn even a fraction of the vast tapestry of the threads of knowledge available to those interested. Books are great. I ‘m glad people study intensively, and write things down, and I hang on the written words of Otis Tufton Mason, Nancy J. Turner, Hilary Stewart, Wendell Berry, and anyone who writes about our connections to the land; but nothing can come close the experience of watching the hands of the weaver, the woodworker, the canoe builder, or anyone who is a master at what they love to do.
I’m happy to announce that a beautiful cultural art film titled: Clam Basket, A Story By Ed Carriere, is now completed. This film is a tribute to a generous Suquamish elder and teacher, Ed Carriere, who is working hard to help preserve some of the important cultural and material knowledge of plants and place.
I was delighted to be able to show this 15 minute film to two classes at Suquamish Elementary School this June. Because of their youthful ages, with one class of first-graders and one class of second-graders, I used the film as an introduction to one of my teachers. I was there to help them learn to weave with Western Red Cedar bark, but I wouldn’t be there if I didn’t have many generous teachers. I stopped the film at a few places, for discussion and questions, and also to give students pieces of the cedar branches and bark that they were seeing Ed Carriere prepare in the film.
We had a fun time together, and my only lament, at least for students of this age, was that I wish I could have shown the film twice. Once more at the end of our experience, so the students could really feel, after our experience together, how much more they knew about what they were seeing Ed do in the movie.