Posted on August 4, 2013
The Sheldon Museum, though small and cozy in comparison to many museums about the country, has quite the collection and display on Chilkat weaving. In fact, for the first time ever, the weaving exhibit included Tlingit language weaving terms! I have posted them on a separate blog entry; click here to the link.
For several years, I thought it a good thing to learn to speak the weaving terms in our Tlingit language. I wished I had asked Jennie to teach me the weaving terms but I was too young to even know what to ask. I watched a documentary on a dugout canoe carved on an island in Lake LaBarge in the Whitehorse area; at one point during the completion ceremony of the canoe, Lance Twitchell a young speaker of Tlingit who taught himself the language not even 10 years ago, who is now an assistant professor at the University of Alaska Southeast, spoke so eloquently in our Native tongue that even though I didn’t know what he was saying, hearing the language in that moment immediately brought tears to my eyes – he spoke as if he were an elder who has returned to us only to find remnants of a language almost obliterated and he alone with a couple of others are working hard to bring it back. Lance looked as if he carried this “weight” upon his shoulders. In that moment, I told myself that when I return to Haines and live there, I will learn my language, and I will begin with the weaving terms so that I may teach it to my students.
The two Chilkat robes in the background were woven by the last of the traditional Chilkat weavers, the late Jennie Thlunaut; and to the left of the robes, the Ravenstail robe was woven by Lani Strong Hotch from Klukwan
On the last day of our demonstration, there suddenly was a congregation of familiar visitors and friends who “happened to be in town” – at our request, William Wasden sang a couple of compositions in honor of weaving and in honor of the carvers, especially in honor of local master carver, Nathan Jackson.
After a wonderful last day, we wished we had been demonstrating our weaving outside the other two previous days; we wondered how many other folks we would have reached had we been more exposed.
Chilkat weaving has become a way of life. I see how it has shaped my world views, my connections to people, places and things; it has even made me philosophize more so than ever! haha! I see all the relativity of things via Chilkat. It is something that I want to share with our people. As with all of us, our time here is limited. I am a busy woman, constantly. I am one of a few who makes the time and energy to teach our women. I want to help bring up the standard of internal living within the minds and hearts of our women. I have experienced the gift it has brought me and how it has changed me internally. Chilkat weaving provides an internal strength I had no idea existed. I want our women to experience this internal strength. When we strengthen our women, we strengthen the bond of our relationships. If during her status as a Chilkat weaver that her relationship with her partner goes awry, possibly the integrity of her partner did not match with the strength of Chilkat weaving. When we strengthen the woman, it is like a rippling effect; the power moves out like a water dropping into the ocean…the weaving strengthens the relationship which in turns strengthen the family unit which in turns strengthens the community, which then strengthens the nation…and the world!
Thank you to my apprentices, Crystal Rogers, Teahonna James, Vanessa Morgan, and the new “groupie” Stefanie Sidney, for coming along for the “ride” – it’s been quite the experience and treat! Let’s do this again! Truly, what would a teacher be without her students?