My name is Cherish Parrish. I am a member of the Match-e-be-nash-she-wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians (formerly Gun Lake Band of Potawatomi Indians) and of Ottawa descent. I am a sixth generation black ash
basket weaver. We have a very large extended family of basket weavers
in our community. I began weaving on my own at the age of twelve
and have been weaving ever since. Weaving baskets is a family affair,
and we all help each other in many ways, gathering and processing
the materials for the baskets.
I make baskets out of black ash trees and create birch bark bitings with my eyetooth on pliable bark that I harvest myself from local birch trees. Both basket weaving and birch bark biting are traditional art forms practiced among the Anishnabe of Michigan. Black ash basket weaving is a very important part of our culture. It is a tradition that has been passed on in our family for many generations and a cultural art form that has been retained for many centuries.
I harvest my own trees in the swampy areas of Michigan and process logs into weaving materials with only the aid of my family, an axe, a knife, and scissors. Preparing my materials at least 75% of the work.
I enjoy weaving traditional baskets such as wedding baskets, market baskets, baby baskets, and more; but I also like to do contemporary, experimental works, such as black ash bracelets, and more recently, I wove a basket bustiere of my own design.
An invasive species called the Emerald Ash Borer was introduced to Michigan in the past decade, and we are losing our ash resource. I have been learning how we can help sustain the future of black ash basket making by collecting black ash seeds and storing them for future plantings in hopes that this art form never dies out. I will continue to work with birch bark and sweetgrass, making baskets and doing bitings, until I am one day able to replant our ash seeds and harvest black ash for baskets with the future generations.