December News from the Museum

Dear Meskwaki Community,
November was a busy month and I can’t believe it’s already history. December is here now and with all of the activity in our community it will be just as busy as November, if not busier. Please take care of yourselves during this season of changing weather and family get-togethers. Always take some time to check on loved ones and elderly members of your family. Remember that colder months are perfect for sharing stories. I recall being told by my mother that as a child she would ask one of her uncles to tell her stories, and he would tell her and her cousin to fast before any story would be shared. She believed that the “fast” would help them remember the stories that were shared. I’m sure there are similar traditions regarding story-telling throughout our community, so reach out and ask, and keep those stories and traditions alive.

During the month of November our museum was able to bring 5 bulrush mats home to the settlement. These handmade Meskwaki bulrush mats came to us through a private collection in Wisconsin, but were originally purchased from a woman on the Settlement. Bulrush mat weaving became a lost art form within our tribe very recently, my estimate is 40-50 years. However, there is an effort being made to revitalize bulrush mat weaving by a small group of community women. These same women are also working on the skills needed to harvest and process cattails for wikiup mats, as well as the plant fiber cordage used to make twine and the bone needles used for sewing the cattails together. All of these skills were common among our people at one time but drifted out of our lives for a number of reasons. What’s important now is that we doing our best to learn how to make our bulrush mats, our cattail mats, cordage and our bone needles just like our ancestors did. Those traditional wikiups kept our people alive through the harshest winters and we survived. I don’t know exactly how these skills became lost, but together we can revitalize these traditional ways so they are a part of our lives once again. Every year of work and practice brings us a little closer to our goals. I believe that together we are going to be successful with the revitalization of these weaving skills.

Lastly I would like to say that “things“ are not as nt to our children as the gift of your time. Take some time to share what you know, and also take some time to listen to what our young people have to say.

~ Bonabiga- Mary Young Bear
Registrar/Community Outreach