By: Gesig isaac
I am not an easy person to love. Perhaps if I weave you a basket this may change, however. Growth and transformation is a slow sometimes an unperceivable process. She goes by many names: Black ash, Basket ash, Wisqoq in Mi’gmaq. She likes her feet wet. She likes the swamp. The muck. The dark, damp. She likes to be pounded. Her layers peeled apart and woven.
Growing up I had always been surrounded by these baskets. I never paid too much attention to them. In my young mind I viewed them as a kind of artifact my white mom liked to accumulate and keep around the house with very little explanation as to their relevance.
At first, the baskets may seem funny to look at. They have curls and swirls and my favorite, spikes. Like a porcupine. Fast forward fifteen to twenty years later and I learn that we call these adornments jikij’j. I’ve also know them to be called wijki’kn.
You may see a tree in the forest today and it could be a basket the next. A vessel to carry, hold, transport, aid and adorn. It’s a process, a transformation.
It takes at least thirty years for a decent basket tree to grow. Depending on the weather, soil quality, what tree neighbours she has, she could be an even better basket tree. She doesn’t like cedar as a neighbour. I don’t really know why.
It took me a great deal of searching to find someone to teach me how to weave. I almost gave up a small handful of times. Her name is Irene and she has been in her fair share of bar fights. She comes from a family of basket makers. It’s how she makes her money. She hustles baskets. We have, for quite some time now, been a basket hustling people.
Intergenerational reclamation of traditional knowledge. Or maybe it should be called “Hello, I’m some confused half breed from the city. Please teach me everything you know.”
At times it feels like pulling teeth to find people willing to share their knowledge with me but when I do it is the most invaluable experience and gift. I feel as though I am living, walking and learning in a whole new way; a visceral experience I have not felt before. I am using my Mi’gmaq hands the way my ancestors intended.
Gesig is a self proclaimed angry, misanthropic, half breed femme demon living and weaving in unceded Mi’gmaq territory.