By Cara Krmpotich
On October 14-16, GRASAC members visited University of Toronto Mississauga and Mississaugas of the Credit territory for an international gathering focused on wiigwaas, birchbark. The gathering brought together people who work with birchbark — as archaeologists, artists, conservators, linguists, biologists, art historians, curators, textual scholars and historians — in the regions of the Great Lakes and northwestern India and Pakistan. Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation Councillor Veronica King-Jamieson and archaeologist Jordan Jamieson welcomed everyone into their territory, sharing teachings about wiigwaas and their commitment to education.
Alan Ojiig Corbiere shared his on-going work with Myna and Ted Toulouse, documenting vocabulary, plant knowledge, and harvesting knowledge. Ruth Phillips shared her knowledge of early birchbark vessels from the Great Lakes and their evolving forms. Lori Beavis shared recent research about the Michi Saagig women who created birchbark gifts for the Prince of Wales.
Those in attendance were also treated to a “show-and-tell” from birch and black ash artist Kelly Church, who demonstrated techniques for etching, quillwork and weaving.
GRASAC members were introduced to a whole new world of birchbark manuscripts from Buddhist, Islamic and Hindu traditions. Many were centuries old, some stretching back nearly 2000 years.
GRASAC thanks Professor Alexandra Gillespie for the invitation to join this gathering and extends gratitude to the team who organized the event.