October 10, 2008 · Updated 3:56 PM
￼PG S’Klallam elders and youth learn to weave together
LITTLE BOSTON — After last weekend, the inner bark of a cedar tree means much more to 15 Port Gamble S’Klallam youth and four of their elders.
At a conference in Ocean Shores the tall and the small learned how to weave with strips of cedar bark as Native American tribes have along the west coast for centuries.
Woven hats, baskets, roses — they weren’t anything the S’Klallam youth and elders hadn’t seen before. But, after hours of lip-biting, concentration making their own, they discovered a new sense of appreciation for the items.
“It was challenging, a lot harder than school,” said Rayna Ives, 13. Ives held up a cedar rose with a woven stem. She gave it to her Grandma Price.
“The first thing they make they have to gift it,” said Laura Price, youth cultural activities coordinator. “It’s just tradition. I think when you gift something you give it to someone to be proud of you.”
At the conference, the youth forced themselves to learn without direct guidance from their teachers. The room was packed, they said, with about 500 people there to learn from 70 teachers. For 11-year-old Hope Jones-Calhoun, it was worth it.
“We’re learning these things because we don’t want our culture to go away,” she said.
Those who attended the conference had to miss school on Friday so were required to have passing grades in all their classes, Price said.
“We want to inspire them to take pride in their heritage and hard work and that’s what the weaving projects are all about,” she said. “We want weavers in this community. They all came back appreciating basketry and weaving.”
Mary Trevathan, a Port Gamble S’Klallam elder who also attended the conference, remembers seeing the cedar woven leggings, hats and regalia of her tribe when she was young. She said she also remembers her grandparents and aunties speaking S’Klallam but before she could catch on, she said, it was like someone turned the lights out on their culture.
“We weren’t allowed to speak our language. We weren’t allowed to learn our culture,” she said.
Like her language, she didn’t have the opportunity to learn weaving either, until the last two years.
“I think the youth in bonding with the elders, they learn the importance of our culture and ways of our people in the past,” she said. “I like talking with the youth. They have stories about their grandmas and grandpas and their grandmas and grandpas are my friends. We were actually learning to weave together.”
Trevathan, who has a family canoe and participates in the Tribal Canoe Journeys each summer, said it is her goal for her entire family to learn to make their regalia.
“I would like them to grow up and know how to do this (weaving), learn the S’Klallam language and I hope they don’t forget it,” she said. “I think it’s important for them to know where their people came from and what they did in the old days and I’m learning with them.”
GB Those who had passing grades were invited to attend the conference. Rayna Ives, Kayli Schell, Brooke Wellman, Hope Jones, Kaiya Sheehy,
Domonique Adams, Audreena Tom, Carol Fulton, Robert Jones, Robert Akins,
Drea Fulton, Cody Melton, Norman Ingraham, Darius Cole and James Struen.