Journey Through Secwepemculew - Art and Expression Page - Birch Bark Basket

How to Make a Birch Bark Basket

1. Bark (p'llen) is carefully selected based on the size and purpose of the basket to be made.  Bark is harvested from the birch tree  the spring and early summer when it is warm enough for the sap to be running.

2. Using a sharp knife or blade the tree bark is carefully cut into just enough to remove the bark for the baskets.  Sticks may be used to help the removal process.
           
3. The birch is rolled up for safe transportation home.

4. Bark need to be worked on right away so that it is still pliable.

5. Using a basket pattern the bark is cut to size.

6. Very gently, one corner at a time, fold up the wall, leaving the corners overlapping.  Using a metal or bone awl , pierce holes for stitching sewbasket seams together with softened, split cedar roots (stinesten).

7. To finish off the top of the basket make a hoop from red willow to fit the rim of the basket. Lay it on top of the basket and stitch it tightly on.
           

Poem

From Days of Augusta. (1973). J.J. Douglas Ltd. Vancouver, B.C.

This story is told by Augusta or Mary Augusta Tappage, born at Soda Creek in 1888. It was recorded in 1973. There was also a video produced featuring Augusta to accompany the selection of stories by Augusta.

 

I

And that’s how they make a basket –

With Saskatoon wood,
Spruce roots
And thin cherry bark.

The Saskatoon wood makes it strong.
The spruce roots make the weave.
The cherry bark is design.

The saskatoon,
The spruce
And the choke cherry tree.

II

It’s made of birchbark, this one,
We use them for picking berries.
They’re good for berry baskets.

First we cut the birchbark from the tree.
Don’t just take any kind.
By the feel of it, yes, how thick –
You’ve got to pick it out.

Don’t just cut it away.
You cut it toward the sun this way.
An old man told me “cut toward the sun”.

See the dark brown lines how short they are.
Is good. The long lines tear.
The short are strong, just as God made them.

Don’t just sew with anything.
Use the spruce root where it strings out
Just below the ground.

Take it up with gloves
and peel them and split them –
It’s easy when the sap is running.

And make it strong with Saskatoon wood
Bent around the brim,
And put a handle on the buckskin.

And there you have a berry basket –
A birchbark berry basket,
Layer on layer, just as God made it.

 

 

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