Syllabic Translator

i u a pi pu pa ti tu ta ki ku ka gi gu ga mi mu ma ni nu na si su sa li lu la ji ju ja vi vu va ri ru ra qi qu qa ngi ngu nga lhi lhu lha

Click a syllabic button to enter it into the search field above

Or try our Advanced Search tool.

Brandon basket-weaving workshop helps pass on 'a legacy that was left for us to follow': knowledge keeper

CBC News | April 27, 2023

Categories: news

Brandon basket-weaving workshop helps pass on 'a legacy that was left for us to follow': knowledge keeper

Workshop offers 'a different kind of community,' says participant

Chelsea Kemp · CBC News · Posted: Apr 27, 2023 6:00 AM EDT | Last Updated: April 27

A man stand's in front of a bunch of willow branches and willow baskets.
Eugene Ross teaches a willow basket-making workshop on Wednesday at the Brandon Friendship Centre's Healing Foundation on Wednesday. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

Weaving together willow and chokecherry branches, a group of crafters in southwestern Manitoba came together to strengthen Indigenous culture, knowledge and teachings.

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation knowledge keeper Eugene Ross says creating willow baskets is an opportunity to share Indigenous teachings that have been passed down for generations.

That knowledge is "a legacy that was left for us to follow," said Ross, who hosted a willow basket-making workshop at the Brandon Friendship Centre Healing Foundation on Wednesday and Thursday.

"You're going to feel a pride in yourself … [and] what you accomplished," he said. "That's my sharing of knowledge ... keeping this alive by sharing and educating people."

As for the participants in the workshop, "they're laughing, they're having fun. They're just enjoying the smell of when you peel ... the willow, when you peel the chokecherry," Ross said.

"They're just enjoying the class so much."

A woman and man laugh making a willow basket.
Ross, left, and Shirley Natowcappo inspect a willow basket handle. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)


Woman make willow baskets.
Amanda Balfour works to shape a branch for a willow basket. The workshop offered 'a different kind of community,' she says. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

Willow basket making was a challenging process, said participant Amanda Balfour, but it was made easier because of what they were learning and the community-building in the workshop.

"Knowing the teaching and then just sitting around with other people … it's a different kind of community," Balfour said.

Activities like this contribute to a sense of belonging that can help people find balance in their lives, she said.

Woman make willow baskets.
Shirley Natowcappo, left, Patsy Searle and Balfour make handles for willow baskets. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)


Woman make willow baskets.
Natowcappo, left, Searle and Teryn Mecas make willow baskets. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

Ross said his grandmother Margaret Williams (Flying Woman) made baskets as a young woman, which was always a community activity.

"Growing up as a young person, I watched her making baskets, and how she delivered her baskets and who came to buy her baskets," Ross said. "She'd sell her baskets to feed her family and her grandchildren."

She took pride in passing that tradition on to other people, and Ross said he is now trying to carry that on.

A woman uses a knife to strip bark off a tree twig.
Searle strips bark of a branch for a willow basket. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

'A beautiful thing'

Participants in the workshop not only got to take something home that they made themselves — they also received stories about Dakota history. 

Ross's hope is they will think about those teachings when they look at their art at home.

The process of making a willow basket was "a beautiful thing," said participant Renee Maillet.

A woman picks up willow branches.
Renee Maillet selects willow branches to make a basket. The workshop gave her a chance to focus on her connection to the Earth, she says. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

Working with her hands gave her the time to naturally focus on her connection to the Earth, she said.

"Indigenous people were here long before the settlers came and we want everyone to be able to gain from that knowledge, because we all live on the same Turtle Island. We all live on Mother Earth and we need to learn how to respect it," she said.

"It's just beautiful."

Woman make willow baskets.
Mecas strips bark off a branch for a willow basket. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

Balfour says living in Brandon, close to Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, has given her a chance to learn about other nations like the Dakota while strengthening her own Cree identity.

Teachings like beading, ribbon skirt making, moccasin making and medicine harvesting have been grounding and help her mental health, she said.

"I feel very honoured," Balfour said. "Our culture is being lost.… We're slowly getting it back, but there's not enough people wanting to learn."

But "if I know, I can teach future generations," she said.

A man makes a willow basket.
George Ducharme makes a willow basket. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)


A woman makes a willow basket.
Natowcappo ties a handle for a willow basket. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

Maillet has been coming to the Brandon Friendship Centre Healing Foundation since it opened in October 2022, and says she's made rewarding connections with many Indigenous people from whom she's been able to learn.

"Here, it's safe. We talk to each other, we care for each other, we teach each other new skills and the wisdom from our elders that's shared in this building," Maillet said.

"The programming is open to non-Indigenous people because we want people to learn that ... our culture is not something to be afraid of."

A woman holds pieces of willow tied together in a circle.
Maillet checks out the handles she's made for a willow basket. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

One of the biggest teachings she's taken away from participating in the Indigenous programming at the friendship centre has been slowing down and living in the moment, she said.

"Taking this time to just connect is a gift."

Woman make willow baskets.
Deborah Tacan's moccasins are surrounded with bark shavings from a willow branch. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)


Featured Content