Suzan Marie, a Chipewyan Dene, from the South Slave region of the Northwest Territories, based in Yellowknife provides training in the manufacture and production of Dene and Metis fine arts.
She rediscovered the art when she came across a reference to a Dene basket — something she’d never heard of before. Since then, she has been working to reintroduce spruce root basketry to today’s Dene artisans across the North.
In 1999, she undertook her first workshop to reintroduce Dene basketry to artisans in Trout Lake in 1999. In this isolated and traditional community near the NWT’s southwestern border, she gathered seniors, women and young people interested in learning the long-forgotten Dene craft. She came equipped with photographs of baskets now housed in museums and historic descriptions of the craft. She was assisted by instructor, Mandy Brown who is an elder from British Columbia whose people, the Nlaka’pamux, had maintained a slightly different form of coiled basketry.
The success inspired Suzan to co-write a book with Judy Thompson of the Canadian Museum of Civilization titled “Dene Spruce Root Basketry â€” Revival of Tradition”. Their book was produced for the Canadian Ethnology Service and was published by the Museum of Civilization.
Suzan Marie has overseen revival workshops in porcupine quill work, babiche bag making and spruce root weaving through out the Northwest Territories and in Whitehorse, Yukon.
In August 2003, Suzan was awarded the “Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal” for her significant contribution in arts and culture in Northwest Territories and in Canada. As an author and educator, she has worked to teach others about her native culture and sustain traditions for future generations.
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