Beyond the Blanket: Preserving the Traditions of Lummi Weaving

Beyond the Blanket: Preserving the Traditions of Lummi Weaving


good morning [speaking Xwlemi Chosen] [speaking Native Xwlemi Chosen Language] My English Christian name is Bill James
William James of the Lummi Nation located near Bellingham Washington today we’re going to talk a little bit
about making of the [blanket]. The importance of the blankets that we weave
and why we do it and today there’s a recent upsurge of people that are are
wanting to learn how to to make the blankets. They were used for many reasons
number one was to keep warm and the wool blankets were some of them were but
almost a inch thick and they’d like weigh ten pounds or more sometimes like
that. But the ladies would make the yarn like I were just doing on the spindle
whorl and then they would weave them on the upright looms. But the traditional
materials were the mountain goats wool and the mountain goats name was called
[Xwlemi Chosen] the cattail fluff called [Xwlemi Chosen] the fireweed fluff and the cedar bark
was all woven together. The pounded shredded cedar bark was spun into the
wool to keep the moths from eating up the wool but it was pounded and it was so
soft that didn’t bother you. Occasionally there was a little nettle fiber in
there once in a while too you know but not very often.
One of the other main materials was from the little woolly dog the Little Woolly
Dog his name was [Xwlemi Chosen]. He was bred specifically for his wool and it was
indigenous to our people here. They lived out on Orcas Island out there by Eastsound over there and they had a little island out there that they they just
bred the little dogs they were kept separately. There was a purebred dog
and it was indigenous to our people here all of these
materials that are spun into the into the wool. The traditional blankets were
made very large some of them were very thick they were almost a inch thick
years ago. They were really designed for warmth you know to sleep under because
around here it used to be very very cold extremely cold years ago. They’re not
mountain goat wool today. They’re sheeps wool today Not just everybody had them you know
they were kind of like a status thing and occasionally we had what was called
a Give Away potlatch type as you would probably know A giveaway gathering and they would take these blankets and they
would get up on the roof and they would throw these blankets out into the
audience and the ladies would go and they would grab ahold of the blankets
and they were just hang on to them and they would unravel it and take it apart and
they would make their own blankets from what they got from their giveaway. Then
eventually the some people call them the Boston’s come in on the boats they call
a big river called the Boston’s and the non-indians came into our area and they brought with them the Hudson’s
Bay blankets okay and years ago there were the ones with the stripes but there
were also the red blankets with the black stripes okay and they would take
those red blankets and they would strip them make a strip out of them and they
would weave the red strips into the blanket that’s where they first come
from where the red stripes came in to our area but other than that it was done
like this it was done with twining you know what twining like this you know it
was all twined in but there are two difference this is what you call a twill
this is called the herringbone twill and this under here is called twining this
is all twined and it’s a different stitch entirely as we teach our young people today it’s
important that they learn these things to give them self-identity as to who we
are as a people that’s most important once they find who they are they almost
succeed better in both worlds people don’t realize we live in two worlds in
my community here nobody ever calls me Bill James my name is Seeley
a lot of our young people carry their traditional native names of their
ancestors you know and who this is this gives us identity as to who we are like
I say the in the beginning the pattern was basic twelve like that’s a two over
two under the herringbone twelve here that was a basic method of weaving the
blankets you know and then occasionally they had the border like this yeah see
now I see this is herringbone twelve but this is twined here basically this
blanket consists of two different methods of weaving the herringbone
twelve you can see the pattern goes this way it’s actually just two over two
under – over two under to over 200 and you move over one each time okay now
twining I make just a little black section at one time I make the white
section next I make a black section next but it’s it’s um two strands in other
words this is just one strand this is two strand weaving and it’s twined
together and then then you make this one this one this is and you make this one
that’s Odessa all separately each one is done separately
my late mother it’s been four years now since she passed and and she’s the one
that spun all this yarn every bit of this yarn she’s spun
and I’ve been kind of hanging on to this piece say I really don’t I didn’t really
want to you know I didn’t really want to sell it or anything you know I wanted to
kind of keep it you know today blankets are used basically in the same method I
mean they’re built for warmth of course but we use them for what we call CM more
word respected people will wear those these gifts are given quite regularly
now because a few people are making them now you know I’ve taught classes in how
to weave for quite a few years now and there’s quite a few people picking it up
things are changing really quick now you know and they’re going creative now you
know I’m going creative and you know everything changes you know everything
changes you

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