Weaving a Coast Salish tradition

Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives

For a while it seemed that the art of traditional Coast Salish weaving would be lost – the skills were not being passed on to new generations. Fortunately, a revival is currently under way. The Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives is featuring a Coast Salish weaving series in February, offering weaving workshops and a curators’ talk.

“We’re creating the space for the stories to be told,” said Matthew Lovegrove, museum manager. The Museum is collaborating with the Squamish Lilwat Cultural Centre, Tems Swiya Museum and Coast cultural practitioners Jessica Silvey and Tsawaysia Spukwus to make it happen. This is not the first collaboration with First Nations people. In the past, the Museum has mounted a show of ancient stone tools collected on the Sunshine Coast, and more recently they have invited the public to learn about the craft and culture of the Salish canoe. 

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On right now at the Museum is a new exhibit, Syets-chet Ihen-tumulh txwchelhk w-anam (Our Stories Woven Through Time), co-curated by the Squamish Lilwat Cultural Centre. Check out the massive, decorated yellow cedar spindle whorl on display, the standing floor loom and the blankets woven with modern materials in traditional designs.

On Saturday, Feb. 4 you can join Jessica Silvey of the Sechelt Nation for a wool weaving workshop where you will learn to weave a scarf or wall hanging in the Coast Salish tradition.

“Cedar bark weaving is really my passion,” Silvey said, but she weaves in both cedar and wool. Traditionally blankets were woven of wool, though that was a generic term for a variety of fibres: mountain goat hair was the most valuable and the most difficult to collect, while dog fur was also used and plant fibres such as hemp, stinging nettles and even fireweed stalks. For the workshop, sheep’s wool will be used.

If you’re not so good at working with your hands, you can still learn more about the process. The following weekend on Saturday, Feb. 11, curators Alison Pascal (Squamish Lilwat Cultural Centre) and Raquel Joe (Tems Swiya Museum, Sechelt) will give a talk on the cultural significance of Coast Salish weaving from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at the Museum. You will learn about the importance of woven blankets to the culture and other fascinating facts about Coast Salish weaving. Admission is by donation.

Closing out the series will be a cedar weaving workshop with Tsawaysia Spukwus of the Squamish Nation on Saturday, Feb. 18. Weave a headband, coin purse and/or a bookmarker using cedar weaving techniques while learning about Squamish culture through Tsawaysia’s vibrant storytelling.

Call the Museum to register for the workshops at 604-886-8232. The Feb. 4 wool weaving workshop runs from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with a fee of $65 for making a wall hanging on the table loom and $85 for a scarf woven on a floor loom. All materials and equipment are provided. The Feb. 18 cedar weaving workshop runs from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and costs vary from $4 to $35 according to which item you choose to weave. All materials are provided. See www.sunshinecoastmuseum.ca for more.

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