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Birch Bark Containers

Mattilda Roberts with basket Birch bark was the main material to make food preparation and storage containers before metal and plastics were available. It is the ideal material: readily available, waterproof, pliable, and rot resistant. The bark would be cut to the right size and shape, and then sewn together with spruce roots. The baskets were then used to cook food by placing hot stones in with the stewing meat. They also made great berry picking baskets, and the berries stored in them would not mold. You could also carry water with them.

Granddaughter with birch boxToday the art of making birch baskets is being carried on by such people as Mattilda Roberts of Grandmother Bay Reserve on the Churchill River in Saskatchewan. Mattilda goes each summer to a specific stand of birch that she knows of. There she sets up a camp and stays in the bush while she makes the baskets. All of the material for the baskets she gathers from the bush around her. She splits spruce roots until they are the right size for sewing the baskets together. She dies the roots with berries and other plant material that she finds to give a decorative look to the baskets.

Mattilda learned this skill from her grandmother, and is teaching her own grandchildren how to make them.

Birch Bark Biting | Birch Bark Containers

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Modified on 24 Oct 96