Skip to Content

Tsimshian Bilingual Guide: Twining Cedar

Red cedar bark twined basketry is a distinctive Tsimshian art form. With the passing on of elder master artists and the demands of contemporary lifestyles, it became at risk. A handful of weavers today are working to master and revitalize twined cedarbark basketry, reconnecting with a proud heritage. In 2016, the Arctic Studies Center collaborated with The Haayk Foundation of Metlakatla to document the materials and techniques of cedarbark basketry. The project included a harvesting and processing workshop and a weaving workshop in Metlakatla, and a residency at the Arctic Studies Center in Anchorage where artists studied baskets from museum and private collections, practiced and refined weaving techniques, and taught museum visitors and school children about basketry.

Teaching was led by Haida master weaver Delores Churchill, who learned from master Tsimshian weaver Flora Mather, with assistance from her daughter Holly Churchill, an accomplished weaver. In addition to Metlakatla students, three advanced Tsimshian weavers participated in the project, sharing techniques learned in their families and communities and learning new ones: Kandi McGilton (co-founder of The Haayk Foundation), Karla Booth (granddaughter of Tsimshian master weaver Violet Booth) and Annette Topham (niece of master Tsimshian weaver Lillian Buchert). Metlakatla elder Sarah Booth, a fluent speaker of Sm’algyax (Ts’msyen), assisted Kandi McGilton in documenting indigenous basketry terminology for use in language classes.

The bilingual guide below pairs with a set of 15 instructional videos included here. The guide provides step-by-step details about cedarbark basketry from harvesting materials to twining techniques in Sm’algya̱x (the Tsimshian language) and English. A twined cedarbark basket from the Smithsonian collections is also included below.

Tags: Alaska, Native art, museum, education, Indigenous, Tsimshian, cedar, bark, Metlakatla, weaving, basket, David Boxley, Kandi McGilton, Delores Churchill, Karla Booth, Annette Topham, Holly Churchill, Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Alaska

Tsimshian basketry

Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center Alaska

Twining Cedar Bilingual Guide

Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center Alaska

Basket

National Museum of the American Indian

Twining Cedar (2 of 15): Weaving Terms

Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center Alaska

Twining Cedar (4 of 15): Harvesting Red Cedar Bark

Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center Alaska

Twining Cedar (5 of 15): Preparing Red Cedar Bark

Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center Alaska

Twining Cedar (7 of 15): Harvesting and Preparing Canary Grass

Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center Alaska

Twining Cedar (8 of 15): Weaving a Plaited Bottom

Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center Alaska

Twining Cedar (9 of 15): Weaving a Twined Bottom

Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center Alaska

Twining Cedar (10 of 15): Weaving the Bottom Edge

Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center Alaska

Twining Cedar (11 of 15): Weaving the Sides

Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center Alaska

Twining Cedar (12 of 15): Designs (Patterns)

Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center Alaska

Twining Cedar (13 of 15): Weaving Designs - Overlay

Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center Alaska

Twining Cedar (14 of 15): Weaving Designs - False Embroidery

Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center Alaska

Twining Cedar (15 of 15): Ending - Weaving the Rim

Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center Alaska