The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year and the official start of winter. It is the beginning of a new cycle and a day to reflect on the year that passed. Sunlight steadily increases each day after the solstice. Although it is the darkest day of the year, it also brings the promise of light.
It was only fitting that the Tetewata’therí:ke (“We are filling our basket”) opening circle began December 21, the evening of the winter solstice, with a tobacco burning and the Ohén:ton Karihwatéhkwen. With the support of the Akwesasne Child and Family Services (ACFS) Traditional Support Unit, the circle included ten female youth between the ages of 13-17 where they met twice a week over the course of a five-week period working together to expand their cultural knowledge, learn teachings, make new friends and create lasting memories.
The concept of Tetewata’therí:ke is based on filling our “life” basket with positive, healthy, productive and culturally sound life-skills. Although some of the things we carry in our basket are positive, there are times that what we carry in our baskets is not pleasant. Sometimes, we have individuals or families that need to “unpack” their baskets first. They need help to remove those traumas, heartaches and unhealthy coping skills.
Lauralee Arquette, Traditional Support Worker for the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne Department of Community and Social Services, noted how “Tetewata’therí:ke is a space where you begin the journey to fill those baskets with good things, good experiences, healthy relationships, friendships, learn about healthy boundaries, traditional teachings, purpose, goal settings, positive choices, all while our hands are creating beautiful items.”
Each young lady began by crafting a utility basket under the guidance of Basket Maker, Glenn Swamp. Glenn shared with the weavers that “the first splint represents you, then as you weave around yourself, you have your parents, your grandparents, your community…everything begins with you in the center.”
Participants also utilized journals for self- reflection, sewed their own ribbon skirts and created vision boards and goal setting. Apryl Thompson led a modern hoop style beaded earring class. Chazy Cook taught the young women different hair braiding styles and Colleen Nolan facilitated a moccasin making workshop. This group of young women took the initiative to begin a lifetime journey of learning, adding to their medicine bundles, learning about themselves, their culture, and the importance of their presence in the world.
Lauralee added, “So much of our culture was lost to our people during residential schools and this is us giving it back to our youth.”
Niawenhko:wa to all individuals that helped teach within our circle!