TWP. -- Margaret Pearce drove almost two hours from her home to
reconnect with her heritage.
Pearce, a Marshall resident, said she can trace her American Indian
ancestry to the Pottawatomi tribe that was removed from the St.
Joseph area to Kansas in the 1800s.
ancestors were again relocated to Oklahoma and became known as the
Citizen Band of Pottawatomi.
said she always has been interested in her Indian heritage, so she
traveled to Monterey Township to learn the basics of basket weaving
from John Pigeon.
weaving is a part of my Indian heritage, but it's something I don't
know how to do," Pearce said. "I met John (Pigeon) at
an Indian powwow last year, when he gave a basket-weaving demonstration.
When he told me that he teaches basket-weaving classes, I made up
my mind to learn."
a Dorr resident, teaches Indian arts and crafts at educational institutions,
museums and Indian centers. For the past two years, he has conducted
a series of classes in January, February and March, primarily for
people with Indian ancestry.
is something you don't keep to yourself," said Pigeon, a Pokagon
Pottawatomi. "You pass it on so the skill does not die."
the basket-weaving classes at the Monterey Township Hall, Pigeon
starts from scratch. He begins with a black ash tree log and teaches
students how to pound the log and remove the strips used for baskets.
also explains how to select a log. It needs to be free of knots,
straight and healthy. If the tree is in a stand of less then 10
black ash trees, he would not harvest it.
we cut a tree, we have a ceremony acknowledging its life,"
Pigeon said. "It has been waiting for us for 20 years, but
we want to acknowledge that it will have a usefulness for years
and Jennie Brown have been making baskets for more than 20 years
but attended Pigeon's latest class to keep their skills intact.
don't think we'll ever know everything because there is so much
to doing this," Jim Brown said.
the winter, Pigeon conducts the classes with Kelly Church, a local
Pottawatomi. Besides basket weaving, they also teach how to make
drums and dream catchers.
also teach some of the Pottawatomi language and how to prepare sweet
grass that is used as Indian medicine," Church said.
classes will run through March at the Monterey Township Hall. People
interested in the classes can contact Pigeon at (616) 681-2534.
also taking it a step further by showing what else you can do with
a log after you have removed the strips you need for baskets,"
Pigeon said. "There's still enough wood left for Indian bows,
spears and other things."