Leslie H. Tepper is the curator of Western ethnology at the Canadian Museum of History. She is the author of Earthline and Morning Star: Nlaka’pamux Clothing Traditions and coauthor of Legends of Our Times: Native Cowboy Life. Janice George (Chepximiya Siyam) is a co-owner (along with Willard Joseph) of the L’hen Awtxw: The Weaving House studio. She is a hereditary chief of a Squamish family. Willard Joseph (Skwetsimltexw), the great-great-grandson of Harriett Johnnie, weaves and teaches.
Salish Blankets (Nebraska, 2017) is a wide-ranging culture study that explores Coast Salish weaving and culture through technical and anthropological approaches.
Publication of the book, Salish Blankets: Robes of Protection and Transformation, Symbols of Wealth, brings to a close a multi-year, multi-faceted project. The authors of the volume, Leslie Tepper, curator at the Canadian Museum of History and Chief Janice George and Willard Joseph, Salish weavers from the Squamish community, have worked together for twelve years. The partnership was founded, and continues to be based, on mutual interests in museums, in weaving as a fine craft, and recognition of the importance of traditional knowledge. Together we organized weaving workshops on the Squamish Reserve and at the museum in Gatineau, Quebec; gave papers at conferences and Indigenous gatherings; produced an interactive CD-Rom for beginning weavers and published this volume with the University of Nebraska Press. The project has offered many opportunities for the sharing of information and experiences which in turn have led to friendships between the three authors and with individuals in the Salish and museum communities.
Few museums have Salish material culture collections and woven blankets make up only a small component of these holdings. The associated documentation—the object’s provenance, identification of materials and other basic cataloging data—is often fragmentary. Nineteenth century ethnographic and historical sources provide little contextual information and there are only a handful of studies showing blanket techniques and design styles. However, we were able to tease out some fresh insights by analyzing not only the blankets, but also Salish tumplines and baskets in public and private collections. Discussions with other weavers in the Salish community led to a new approach for understanding the traditional textiles. Ancestral teachings and the weavers’ stories of personal journeys as they designed and created contemporary nobility robes, wedding blankets and puberty capes brought together the past and the present. The memories offered by community members of what they felt when wearing the blankets created the frame on which to string our threads of insight and narrative.
It has been our privilege to be on this journey of learning, weaving and teaching. We are fortunate our Grandmother was here at the beginning, to share what she knew about what it means to be weaving, and wearing the weavings. We have been able to share with elders, children and people of different nations. It has been such a gift to see how it affects people to learn what their ancestors did, how it lifts a community to see the weavings in ceremonies again. It is a story of love and the tenaciousness of our people. Our Grandmothers and Grandfathers have held on to this for us, it is our turn now to make sure the knowledge endures. We have shared the weaving skill and made it accessible again and it only makes us stronger. To describe the experience we have had in the past years is almost impossible, but to say we were guided and sometimes pulled in the directions we have taken.
Chen kwen mantumi, We are grateful
-Chief Janice George and Willard (Buddy) Joseph