This video was filmed by my apprentice Carmen, at our Traditional Elderberry Syrup workshop. The preparation and preservation methods are typical of a traditional Metis recipe. The berries are fresh and locally harvested! The syrup turned out lovely. Thank you for the video, Carmen!
I, myself, am a Bear, through and through! Embracing this identity has been a journey for me, and a learning experience deeper than a winter den. Continue reading
There is no way to describe how much I love my new loom! It’s a simple, honest tool that makes weaving so fun and fast. Although you can’t get that traditional, finger-woven look with a loom project, you can at least make a full sized sash in about 20 hours instead of 300.
The most famous Metis sashes now-a-days are woven with looms, specifically the Red River Sash pictured below. It is probably the most recognizable emblem of Metis culture in Canada (although some Easterners will tell you that it is a French Canadian invention, to which I must say, they are about half-right!).
Interestingly enough for Canadian history nerds, this most common of emblems is a debutante on the scene of traditional Metis sashes. Voyageur and other similar sashes were originally woven only by hand.
The story that was told to me is this. In the old days, women would weave beautiful handmade sashes and trade them to the Hudson’s Bay Company, who would sell them. Everyone wanted one of these sashes, and if they didn’t have a weaver in the family you could head on over to your nearest HBC trading post and buy one. Trade was brisk!
The talented women who made the sashes were grievously underpaid, making today’s equivalent of pennies-per-hour for their gorgeous handiwork! When the women decided to band together and demand more money, so the story goes, the Hudson’s Bay found that loom weavers could produce a similar-looking sash in a fraction of the time, and were willing to accept less money than the finger-weavers. The finger-weavers were replaced (Progress, you old tyrant!).
And that is the story of the cheaper-to-produce, but still beautiful, red river style sash as told to me.
Definitely a loom sash can be a work of art, but will always lack the craftsmanship of a finger-woven sash, which is quite possibly worth its weight in gold.
Meanwhile, as I wait for my next finger-weaving teacher to appear out of the mists of the ages, it’s nice to have a loom to be creative with. I’ll post more projects as I learn, and eventually I’ll post a pattern for the red river style sash that you can use at home on your own loom.
Sunday August 20, 2017, 12-4pm Bowness Park, NW Calgary
Join the Alberta Herbalists Association members and friends at Bowness Park for an afternoon of family friendly picnic’ing and plant appreciation! August is the perfect time to meet your local wild edible and medicinal herbs, and expert Herbalists will be on hand to teach you.
Bring yourself a picnic lunch and join in the fun! Learn from 3 different experts by following along on a Herb-walk, they will be sharing traditional and evidence-based knowledge about the wonders of plants. This is a great opportunity to build networks and create community with herb enthusiasts in our community.
All ages welcome! There will be some activities for everyone. Please bring water, frisbees, picnic blankets, umbrellas, or whatever else you need to be comfortable and have a great time in the August shade. Don’t forget to bring a cup so you can sample the delicious herbal iced teas!
Metis Fingerweaving Lesson 1 (Downloadable .Zip File)
This is the first in a series of presentations on Metis fingerweaving techniques. More will be uploaded over the next year, as they are created.
To learn more about Metis culture, please see this beautiful book put together by the Métis Centre at the National Aboriginal Health Organization in association with Metis elders.
(Credit for book: Métis Centre, National Aboriginal Health Organization (2008). In The Words of Our Ancestors: Métis Health and Healing. Ottawa: National Aboriginal Health Organization.)
Enjoy and please leave a comment!
I recently wrote about my new line of products inspired by my Grandma’s Grandmother, Marie Rose Delorme Smith.
Marie Rose was a writer and midwife on the prairies of Southern Alberta. She is the author of Eighty Years on the Plains, a chronicle of life in Alberta in the pioneer days. She lived a traditional Metis lifestyle, speaking French, English and Cree with her relatives and travelling in her father’s trade caravan.
When the nomadic life of the Metis became unsustainable, she moved to Alberta with her adventurer husband Charley Smith, where they set up a homestead on the Jughandle Ranch on Pincher Creek, Alberta.
Marie Rose was an industrious person, sewing clothes and making a home for 17 children, while serving as a healer and midwife to the native, metis and white communities around her. I admire her as someone who was able to move between worlds in a time when co-mingling (even among ‘half-breeds’ and ‘full-breeds’) was profoundly discouraged. Like Marie Rose, I am not content to live in one paradigm only, but am compelled to see the world from as many mountain tops as I can climb.
I made a trip to the Glenbow Museum archives to obtain images of one of her many manuscripts, quaintly entitled Old Time Home Remedies, in hopes of discovering what my Grandmother used in her own day to help the people around her feel better. I would like to share some of her writings with you.
” Old Time Home Remedies
By Marie Rose Delorme Smith
In out of the way places home remedies are invariable tried before the Doctor is called and some of the home cures do the trick admirably. In the far north most of the remedies used by the Eskimo (sic) and the indian are tried by the white people with good results.
A cure for boils, blood poison, proud flesh and the like is made from the gall bladder of the Bear,
after the bear has been in hibernation all winter its bladder is much larger than at any other time. For use it is shaved like soap then to these shavings alcohol or coal oil is added, the mixture thus formed is spread over the wound or otherwise diseased tissue, then liquid balsam gum is poured over this, in a day or two this covering can be lifted off, with the proud flesh or other dead tissue adhering to it, the flesh beneath is left sterilized and in condition to heal rapidly.
The indians in alberta used to have several sweat baths on each reserve and used this substitute for the Turkish Bath of the white man as a remedy for cold and other ailment.
When available warm blood was often given to newborn papooses.
Beds were placed on the ground to ward off rheumatism, sciatica, etc.
The indians wore strings of beads, bracelets and necklets (sic) rings of brass.
I wonder who remembers the old stocking pot filled with hot salt placed on the cheek for that aching tooth or the ear for that earache.
A small bag filled with hops was placed under the pillow for sleeplessness. The wearing of red flannel for Rheumatism was quiet common.
A string of cut coral beads around the child’s neck would (sic) it was thought to protect it from sore throat.
Some of us still have the scars from the asafetida or camphor bag worn around the neck as a preventative of contagious disease.
When a child was born with a birthmark the mother was supposed to kiss the mark before breakfast each morning.
Butter rubbed over a swelling bump would reduce the swelling.
Some of the pioneers carried potatoe in opposite pockets as a cure for rheumatism. Babies inflamed eyes were bathed with mother’s milk from the brest. (sic)
An idea of some grand mothers was to peerce (sic) the ears of a child for earrings to strengthen eyesight.
A piece of copper wire around the wrist and around the opposite ankle or one around each wrist was supposed to cure arthritis. To remove ring worm one was advised to rub a copper penny on the diseased spot.
Garlic was eaten to bring down high blood pressure.
Parsley was used to take odor away from the breath.
The rose colored leaves of the herb called horsemint is called ‘manikapi’ by the Blackfoot indians . . . it is gathered and placed in hot water and is used as an eye wash to allay inflammation
Like many Metis families, the folk wisdom of my family was nearly lost. The link between the earth-dwelling members and our ancestors would be severed if not for the enduring voices of our women. By seeking out my Grandmothers’ writings on medicine, I am healing my own feeling of cultural disparity with voices from the past.
I’m thankful to have the words of my Grandmother’s Grandmother, and I am grateful to my own Grandma Helene for speaking so fondly of Marie Rose, and fostering a pride in me for my Metis heritage and the strong women who held traditions for their communities and families. May I one day hold the honor of being a tradition-keeper in my own turn!
I want to share a story with you about my Grandmother’s Grandmother. She was a healer and a midwife at the turn of the last century, right here in Southern Alberta.
How excited I was, as a Herbalist trained in Western & North American herbal medicine, to discover that Marie Rose had kept a recipe book with her own herbal remedies! Reading her thoughts through journals and commentaries stored in the Glenbow Archives inspired me to reawaken my Metis heritage through my work as a herbalist. Marie Rose’s Elderberry syrup was the first in a line of healing herbal formulas, based on the plants used as foods and medicines in Alberta during my GG Grandmother’s lifetime.
These remedies are created in the spirit of remembrance and gratitude for the Herbalists and the Plant Teachers who have gone before me, and taught me everything I know. They are bottled with the same playfulness I enjoy exhibiting in all of my labels. On the outside of the bottle is something beautiful – on the inside is ‘Bonn Michinn‘ (“good medicine” in Michif) for your body and soul.
I hope you will enjoy the soothing and comfort of these traditional remedies, and in so doing, remember the infinite Love that our Grandmothers & Grandfathers hold for us. Marsee mes aamii!