Day school survivor shares tradition of making Mi’kmaw baskets

A survivor of the federal day school program spends about 12 hours a day in her studio in southern Nova Scotia.

Sandra Racine uses harvested black ash and sweetgrass to make baskets, strawberries, corn and flowers.

The fancy baskets are designed to look like the ones traded with early Europeans.

“The ladies wanted to impress the Europeans, and surprise them like okay we want to do a trade,” she said. “Here’s a basket, how much would you give me for this basket?”

Racine attended the Big Cove federal day school for ten years. The school was located in her community.

She says speaking Mi’kmaw was not allowed.

“That’s why I speak out and protect the culture,” she says. “I feel like it belongs to us and we have to keep teaching our children.”

Before the pandemic struck, Racine held workshops for young people and other day school survivors.

“It felt good because we were all speaking in Mi’kmaw,” she says. “We all connected with everything like the culture, the basket making.”

Racine is known for her strawberry baskets which sell for about $700.

“These are fancy baskets and I love making fancy baskets, I like creating them, I dye them, I do flowers,” Racine says.

“I do all kinds of wacky stuff with ash.”

Racine says she plans on moving back to Elsipogtog in New Brunswick to be closer to her family, and to pass on her knowledge to people in her home community.

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