Basket making: passing traditions

St. Thomas University Students’ Union Indigenous representative Leanne Hudson hosted a basket making workshop at the Wabanaki Student Centre on March 11.

The most important takeaway she said she wanted students to have from the event is respect and knowledge for Indigenous traditions.

“I’m hoping that students are taking away a bigger message of integrating Indigenous knowledge and history and their teachings into our everyday lives,” she said.

More than 20 students attended the basket making workshop, exceeding the spots open for registration.

Victor Bear taught the workshop alongside fourth-year St. Thomas University student Justice Gruben. 

Bear, 76, began making baskets seventy years ago when his father taught him. Now, he wants to pass his knowledge and tradition to the younger generation.

Over 20 students participated in the basket making. (Jasmine Gidney/AQ)

“We’re losing everything that we have. Our language, our culture and that’s why I like teaching my own people,” Bear said.

“As long as I can teach one kid how to make baskets out of 21, then I have accomplished what I wanted.”

Bear taught Gruben how to teach others to make baskets over the summer.

Together, they approached STU Experiential Learning and received funding through FutureReady Wabanaki’s culture and language fund.

On March 11, Bear taught the students who attended how to make baskets out of the bark from an ash wood tree.

Victor Bear helped teach the students how to make baskets during the workshop on March 11. (Jasmine Gidney/AQ)

Hudson said there were originally 20 spots open for registration, but she made room for 21 because another student wanted to join. A few students who didn’t register also showed up and, lucky for them, Bear brought a few extra kits of ash wood bark.

Hudson said she wanted to create more accessible events where students could come for free or at a low cost.

Gruben said students at the workshop said they felt like basket making was meditative and helped them de-stress.

Other Indigenous practices and traditions could also be used to help students with mental health problems, like anxiety, since it helps them focus on something other than school work, he said.

Gruben also said it was important for STU to hold these kinds of workshops.

The baskets are made out of bark from an ash wood tree. (Jasmine Gidney/AQ)

“Not only are they providing space for our traditions, but they’re also prioritizing these knowledge systems in academia and compensating our elders who hold that knowledge,” he said.

Jessica Paul, a STU alumna from St. Mary’s First Nation and the Indigenous experiential learning coordinator at STU, said she wants more of these workshops to come to campus. She said she hopes that by bringing her own culture to STU, she can help students find their way.

“I’m hoping to help students find themselves and through this, they can become a whole person and use education and their culture to help them grow and find their place in the world.”

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