Jammie began learning basket making from her mother, Jennie Brown at the age of eight. Like so many Potawatomi basket makers, it is considered a part of Potawatomi culture because it is passed down from generation to generation. The brown family makes baskets from the black ash tree, a tree that thrives in the wet, swampy areas near their home in Shelbyville, Michigan. Her work can be seen along with her mothers at Four Winds Casino Resort in New Buffalo, Michigan.
Basket weaving is considered to be the oldest Native American craft, it can be traced back by archaeologists as far back as 8,000 years old. Different tribes use different materials to make baskets. The Northeast Indian baskets, are traditionally from pounded black ash tree splints or braided sweetgrass.
The learning of making baskets is passed down from generation to generation and the beauty of the black ash basket is breathtaking to say the least. I believe photography really shows it's true beauty. The story of the basket is the real beauty.
Browns Teaching at Pokagon class
The Legend of The Black Ash Basket
This legend is very old. The making of this basket came as a vision, the vision of a great Indian (Anishnabe) leader with great concern of his people. Because the knowledge for the black ash basket came from a vision, a gift from the creator, it is considered to be sacred to many Native Americans, especially to the Anishabe elders.
The vision was seen by Black Elk, a Anishabe elder nearing the end of his time. He could see the restlessness in his people, and wanted to leave them with something that would help them provide for their families but also to teach them patience and understanding.
Black Elk asked the creator what he could do to help them, and the creator gave him the vision:
When Black Elk passed, his people were suppose to burn his body and then bury his ashes so that they would always remain in a special place. Out of the ashes would grow a tree, not a regular tree but a special one. His people would watch over this tree and watch it grow and protect it from harm. When the tree was mature, it would be cut down and the growth rings would be removed by pounding the tree and removing strips to fashion them into baskets. Black Elk was very happy with his vision from the creator. The tree that grew from Black Elk's ashes was a sacred gift from the creator.
The Black Ash tree is one of many species of ash that is used to create the Anishnabe baskets. Not every tree can be used. Each tree must be selected with care and understanding.
Canadian Aboriginal Products, International. Mike Jacobs interpretation of Black Elk vision.