Written by Addy Flammang
Claire and her family took a trip to the Mohawk tribe’s reservation to learn how to make sweetgrass baskets. This experience opened Claire’s eyes to her uniqueness and love of nature. She learned about indigenous people and used what she learned to help others.
Keywords: nature, Mohawk, sweetgrass, relationships
It was a sunny and warm day in spring, when Claire and her parents decided they would try something new and make sweetgrass baskets. There was a local indigenous tribe that was offering this experience to help bring people closer with nature and to also learn about the culture, by the Mohawk River. The local tribe wants to teach others about the culture using the hands-on activity of making these baskets, teaching the Mohawk language, and trying to connect people to nature. The Sweetgrass baskets are a staple of Mohawk culture, while the tribe is trying to bring the Mohawk language back to life.
Claire had always felt a connection to nature whenever she was younger, but as she grew older the feeling of a connection started to diminish. Claire was 12 years old, and about to enter her teenage years. This was a very hard time for Claire, and she was struggling with finding herself. She still loved being outside and one with nature, however her friends not so much. Her friends always preferred to stay inside and text about boys.
As Claire and her family got to the River, she started to feel at ease. Claire always felt her best and the happiest when she was outside. The feeling of the sun beating on her and the breeze around her, the sounds of the river flowing and birds chirping. She felt weightless.
Claire sat at the table as the elders of the tribe started to explain the significance of sweetgrass baskets. They went into the history of them and the Mohawk tribe. Claire was mesmerized. She loved learning, and always has. But this was different. This was information Claire wanted to embody. Everything she learned, the language, the way of life, the skills, she wanted to live this way.
As Claire started making her basket, she started to talk with one of the elders. She learned the elder’s name, Tom Porter, which she was really surprised at how “American” it sounded. Tom told her about how the Mohawk language had died out in this area for quite some time. The Mohawk language was brought back, and the elders are trying to do the same with the culture.
Claire told Tom how she was now getting older and that she couldn’t enjoy being outside anymore because it was considered too “kiddish.” Tom laughed at this. He told Claire that there was no such thing as being “too kiddish”. He told her that being “kiddish” is something everyone needs. He explained that loving to be outside is a great thing for Claire, and that she should never stop feeling this way. Tom explained to Claire that she can use her voice and her actions to help make a change for nature.
After making her basket, Claire decided to go to the river. Claire sat next to the river in the Sweetgrass, with her toes in the water. She recited the Mohawk song that she had learned while making the baskets. Claire looked at the river and saw her reflection outlined in light from the sun. This was a moment of peace, excitement, and hope for Claire. She realized that she didn’t care about what her friends thought of her about the fact that she loved nature.
Claire had come to the realization that she was a special person. She had a unique relationship with nature and that she should embrace this. She also came to understand that she could use her relationship with nature to better nature. She could use this to fight for not only nature, but indigenous people. Claire knew that she had a lot of power, and that it was up to her to use this power in a good way.
After this realization, Claire decided to speak up for nature. Claire became close friends with Tom and the other elders, and together they raised awareness for not only nature and its health and wellbeing, but also for indigenous people. Claire joined the tribe in many more activities like this one for years to come. She even set up a field trip with her school to go visit the tribe, learn indigenous songs, and make sweetgrass baskets.