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The Legend of the Black Ash Basket (Cocobanoggan)

The legend of Black Ash Baskets is very old. The making of this basket began as a vision, the vision of a great Indian (Anishnabe) leader with a concern for the future of his people. Because the knowledge for the construction of the baskets came in a vision, a gift from the Creator, it is considered sacred to many Anishnabe elders.

The Black Ash Basket was the vision of Black Elk, a man who was nearing the end of his time and was concerned for his people. He could see the restlessness in his people, and he wanted to leave them with something that would not only help them provide for their families but also teach them the patience they needed.

Black Elk asked the Creator what he could do to help them, and the Creator gave him this vision: "When Black Elk died, the people were supposed to burn his body and then bury the ashes that remained in a special place. Out of the ashes would grow a special tree. The people were to watch over this tree and protect it from harm. This was to be considered a very sacred thing. When the tree matured, it was to be cut down, and the growth rings were to be removed." This process was shown to Black Elk in his vision. He saw how to remove the rings by pounding the tree and how to prepare the strips to fashion them into baskets.

Black Elk was happy with this vision from the Creator. He gathered his people together and told them what was to be done. He knew his people would now learn patience by waiting for the tree to mature, preparing the growth rings, and then finally by weaving their baskets. This would also give the people a way to help provide for their families, by selling or trading their baskets.

The tree that grew from Black Elk's ashes was a sacred gift from the Creator, The Black Ash. The Black Ash is the only one of the many species of ash that is suitable for making the Indian (Anishnabe) baskets. Not every Black Ash tree can be used. Each tree must be carefully selected.

Copyright   Canadian Aboriginal Products, International  Thank you to Mike Jacobs for making this version of the Legend of the Black Ash Basket available.

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