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Nick Bear Carries On Art Of Basket Making

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      NOVEMBER 1976      v06 n11 p22  
While the whiteman has been busy pushing down trees and anything else that might stand, in their way of progress, Indian people have always tried in harmony with nature and have taken only what they need to survive.

While sixty-one year old Nick Bear (Red Bear) does not make baskets to survive nor as his only means of support, the demand is there for him to sell the few that he does make.

These baskets that Mr. Bear makes are no ordinary baskets that you can purchase in any store. For one thing, they can only be made during fall and winter. He said the trees have started to grow in the summer months and therefore breaks easily.

These baskets are made from white ash and red willow trees. The frames and ribs (as Mr. Bear calls them) are made from white ash. These are then covered with bark from red willows. For somebody who doesn't have the skill, making these baskets would take quite a bit of time, as the white ash has to be trimmed and the red willow bark peeled in the process of making a basket. However, in his case, he said it would take him half an hour or so to make a 6" basket.

Although Mr. Bear has only started making baskets about five or six years ago, the skill has been in his family and handed down from generation to generation. They have a 19-year-old 6" basket as well as a 15-year-old 4" basket that his mother had made for his daughters. They also have a beautiful 10-year-old 12" x 24" basket which was made by a nephew, Johnny Whitecap. This basket would be used for anything but if it were just a little bit bigger, it would make a beautiful bassinet for some baby.

Mr. Bear makes these baskets more as a hobby as well as keeping the family skill alive, hopefully he will find the time to make more after he retires. Right now, he makes them only in his spare time. I am sure he won't have any trouble finding a market for these beautiful baskets.