Dene Spruce Root Basketry

Revival of a Tradition

Table of contents

IntroductionSection I: The Dene Spruce-Root Basketry TraditionSection II: Revival of a TraditionSection III: Making a Basket--Materials--TechniqueAcknowledgmentsEndnotes


Baskets made from coiled spruce roots once were commonplace items in many Dene homes. The craft died out, however, in the nineteenth century, as copper kettles became available through trade with Europeans. By the end of the twentieth century, all that remained to attest to this ancient tradition were a few baskets in museum collations. In 1999, Suzan Marie, a Dene with a passion for the traditional arts of her people, saw a photograph of one of these baskets and initiated a project to reintroduce the lost art of spruce root basketry to small Dene communities. This book tells the story of this modern revival of a traditional skill, and of the museum collections that were essential to the process. It is richly illustrated with photographs of baskets - both those collected in the nineteenth century and those made recently by a new generation of Dene basket-makers. Also included are detailed descriptions and illustrations of the processes involved in making a basket, from harvesting of spruce roots to coiling technique. This book will be a resource for anyone interested in Dene culture and heritage. It will also serve as a practical guide to artisans wishing to make a Dene spruce root basket.