Tracker Pixel for Entry

​Reviving the lost art of birch bark scrolls

by Tessa Torgeson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Arts | May 17th, 2017

The Plains Art Museum Native American Art Program Director, Laura Youngbird, is pairing with Lise Erdrich to teach a class on Birch Bark Scrolls at the Plains Art Museum on May 18 and 19.

Weaving together stories and words, the Ojibwe tribe wrote stories on birch bark scrolls, known in their native language as wiigwaasbakoon. The class will be free to Native artists as part of the Plains Art Museum’s initiative “Creativity Among Native Artists,” which aims to bring visibility to Native American artists through exhibitions, professional development opportunities, and programming.

Youngbird said, “We will be encouraging participants to create or remember a story that has been passed down to them, and interpret it in a pictograph form or memory device.”

Art is a vital tool for cultural preservation and sharing, expression, and resistance against hardships and oppression. Recently art helped increase visibility around The Dakota Access Pipeline protests, amplifying the importance of the issue to activists across the world. The DAPL protests finally brought issues faced by Native Americans to the forefront.

Another important issue is cultural and linguistic preservation. The Ojibwe people used birch bark scrolls to record religious beliefs, ceremonies, and traditions.

“Lise (Erdrich) and I will be teaching the history and storytelling aspect of the scrolls. It would be inappropriate for us to share the sacred or ceremonial facet associated with the scrolls in a public workshop,” Youngbird stated.

The sacred and ceremonial aspects of the scrolls are complex and culturally sensitive. Some museums and digital preservationists have chosen to return scrolls to their homes with the Ojibwe people. While some scrolls are publicly shown, many museums and websites have chosen to not make the scrolls publicly viewable.

Research conducted by The Society of American Archivists and the National Museum of the American Indians revealed that there was controversy in releasing the scrolls publicly, to those who may misinterpret their meaning. Ojibwe people can use their rich oral traditions and teachings that allow them to properly interpret the pictures and symbols depicted in the scrolls.

An example of the reverence for and power of Ojibwe scrolls occurred regionally in The Bois Forte Reservation, located primarily in Koochiching County in Northern Minnesota. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that 275-year-old scrolls were returned to the Bois Forte Reservation in 2006 by a white Kentucky doctor. The doctor claimed his grandfather acquired the scrolls when he was superintendent of Ah-Gwah-Ching tuberculosis sanatorium near Walker, Minn.

Shockingly, tribal elders confirmed the scrolls were “long-lost records of the Bois Forte lodge of the Midewiwin, or Grand Medicine Society, a selective Ojibwe religious order that preserved its rites on birch bark and was driven underground for most of the 20th century, when Indian religions were outlawed by the U.S. government.” The scrolls are so sacred that band’s elder’s decided the scrolls could not be viewed or photographed by people who are not part of their religious order.

The Picture Writing class will be a fun way to honor this tradition in a respectful way. Youngbird says that participants will use deer bone scribes to etch into birch bark.

IF YOU GO 

Picture Writing: The Lost Art of Birch Bark Scrolls 

Thursday and Friday, May 18 and 19, 3 to 5pm 

Katherine Kilbourne Burgum Center for Creativity, 720 1st Ave N

Fargo Free for Native artists (must register); $60 museum members, $80 nonmembers 

lyoungbird@plainsart.org or Native American Arts Community on Facebook

Recently in:

MANDAN – Hundreds of trials for activists who stood against the Dakota Access Pipeline have seen the judge’s gavel, but only two, so far, received jail time.Mary Redway, 64, a retired environmental biologist from Rhode Island,…

When asked what sparked her interest in tattoo culture, Danielle Colby, star of the hit reality TV show ‘American Pickers,’ replied, “I think that came from my grandfather. He was in the Navy, so he was heavily tattooed. I…

Thursday, October 26, 4pmCopper Ridge Event Center, 21 18th St S, FargoWhile working on his beloved pickup truck, Fred Lassonde sustained a traumatic brain injury, ending his 8-year career as a Fargo Police Officer. Benefit to…

Editorial

You too? Me too.

by Sabrina Hornung

Our opinion: We’ve all been there, been followed, stalked, or worse...On Sunday night, Alyssa Milano tweeted: "Suggested by a friend: If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote "Me too" as a status, we…

God didn’t save six million Jews from the Holocaust eitherWe have become so used to mass killings by firearms in the “United” States that they are generally ignored, except for the really unusual or big ones like Texas Tower,…

The moment of truth has arrived. After seven weeks of sampling and judging some of the finest libations in the area the results for this year’s Cocktail Showdown have arrived. Christopher Larson, Raul Gomez and Sabrina Hornung…

Friday night we were burning the midnight oil, carousing, drinking, and rambling about. The downtown dogfight has been stirring for a while, biting at my heels and barking in my brain. It was time for this idea to come to fruition.…

“Experiences like these are a reminder why I have chosen the right career path; it is my hope that the things I do on stage as a speaker or a singer are able to lift someone’s spirits, help them through a tough time, or serve…

In 1948, George Orwell predicted a dystopian future in his pinnacle work ‘1984.’ Orwell died before he could see if the future was plagued by unending war, a totalitarian government and rigorous loyalty rituals as he’d…

Arts

​Beau Thiege, Guitar Man

by Sabrina Hornung

The High Plains Reader ran into Beau, master craftsman, who works with what the Minot Daily news called “junk repurposed into musical masterpieces.”High Plains Reader: How did you get into luthiery?Beau Theige: I came across a…

Ted Larson introduced me to Chris Jacobs one evening at Weld Hall in the late 1980s. I was in high school then, but Chris recognized fellow film fanatics, and we would chat a little bit each week. I learned quickly that he loved…

Humor

​Talking to strangers

by Sabrina Hornung

“I don’t have a tour, like, on the back of a sweatshirt,” comedian Paula Poundstone says. “I go out every weekend. This weekend I went out Friday, Saturday and Monday. Mostly it’s Friday/Saturday or Thursday through…

Dipping into your cellar to pull out a special bottle is something that used to be fairly exclusive, wine connoisseurs only. These days, cellaring is gaining more and more traction among hardcore craft beer consumers, who continue…

Essential oils. They are all the buzz lately. It seems everyone has heard of them or is purchasing them. Some people know how to use them; others are just interested in the wonder of their complex scents.Essential oils are as…

Live and Learn

​The other shoe

by HPR Contributor

By Elizabeth Nawrotnawrot@mnstate.eduI look up from my hotel lobby breakfast astonished to see a framed print of Wassily Kandinsky's "Mit und Gegen,” a masterpiece of color and composition that just happens to be my favorite…

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to…