Traditional Metis Tree Medicines

Populus (Poplar, Aspen)

Populus is a genus of 25-35 flowering deciduous trees native to the Northern Hemisphere. Common names for Populus include Cottonwoods, Poplars and Aspens. The name Populus (“of the people”)was given to these trees because they are so often planted in public squares and cities.

Properties of populus resin: antiseptic, diuretic, expectorant, stimulant, tonic, analgesic (pain-relieving), astringent, anti-inflammatory, reduces fever

Balsam Poplar Oil Infusion Recipe

  • Freshly picked or frozen sticky balsam buds 
  • Stable emollient oil (grapeseed, olive, jojoba, almond, and coconut oil are good options)
  • Dedicated resin slow cooker or glass pot

*The slow cooker or pot will be difficult to clean; it is best to use a dedicated resin pot and straining cloth when working with resins.

Put balsam buds in a slow cooker or glass pot and cover with oil. Cook on low heat, less than a simmer, for 1-4 hours.

Strain the oil through a clean cloth, and discard the used balsam buds. Allow oil to cool with a cloth over the top, so moisture can evaporate. Store the oil out of the light in an airtight glass container. Apply to skin as needed for aches, rashes and sores.

Picea (Spruce)

Spruce trees are large evergreen trees from the genus Picea, which contains roughly 35 members. Their needles attach singularly to the branches, and are 4-sided. Spruce wood is used in construction, paper production and to make musical instruments. Spruce pitch is used as a glue in crafting and as a medicine for respiratory infections, arthritis and angina.

Medicinal properties of spruce tips: expectorant, stimulant, antibiotic, contain vitamin C, tonic, pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory

Spruce Tip Syrup Recipe

  • Fresh, soft needles from the tips of the spruce tree, gathered in early spring
  • 1 liter of water
  • 1 liter of sugar

Boil 2 cups of spruce tips in 1 liter of water for 5 minutes, lid on. Strain, retaining the liquid. Add 1 liter of sugar and return the mixture to the stove, on medium heat, stirring until all the sugar has dissolved. Pour the syrup into glass jars and keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. Take 1 teaspoon, 1-4 times daily as needed for sore throat.

Ici Alberta – Ceintures Flechees avec Kalyn Kodiak

Tisser des ceintures fléchées au Festival des Sucres

Parmi les nombreuses activités au Calgary Maple Festival des Sucres, il y aura des ateliers pour apprendre comment tisser des ceintures fléchées. On est allé à la rencontre de Kalyn Kodiak, un des artisans qui mènera les ateliers.

Posted by ICI Alberta on Friday, March 1, 2019

I was on Ici Alberta rockin’ my peu de francais and talking about the Metis sash, culture, and what it means to be a weaver.

Video – Elderberry Syrup, Traditional Method

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!

The History of Loom-Woven Metis Sashes

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!).

(C) Winnipeg Free Press

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.