Hanford McCloud, Nisqually tribal councilman and Canoe Family member, uses a leather fringe tool to split cedar to prepare it for use to weave hats and baskets.

“Cedar has healing power – so wear it.”

These words from Skokomish tribal weaver Bruce Miller always echo in Hanford McCloud’s mind when he is weaving.

“I learned to weave from my grandparents and my parents,” said McCloud, a Nisqually tribal member whose hats are well known in tribal communities throughout the Northwest. Spending three days with Miller early in the development of his weaving skills also helped McCloud expand his skills.

Cedar has been used for baskets, hats, bentwood boxes and regalia, to name a few uses, for millennia by tribes. Cedar’s water- and insect-repelling properties make it ideal for many items used in daily life.

McCloud first learned to weave hats from Makah tribal members Theresa and Doris Parker years ago. Beginning in 1997, he became fascinated with making the visor style of hat, creating a mold that he still uses today.

“Now, when I make a hat, it just kind of comes to me while I’m working who I’m making it for and that sort of informs the work,” said McCloud, who is a Nisqually tribal council member and culture specialist.

His mother, Joyce, wears an intricate traditional cedar hat that is so distinctive that anyone at intertribal gatherings throughout the Northwest knows her by the hat.

It’s adorned with abalone squares and circles, as well as an eagle feather and an ermine skin in the short-tailed weasel’s white winter color.

“Ermine are predators and they are symbols of power,” said Hanford, who gifted the hat to her 10 years ago.

Some of his ideas for hats come from studying old pictures of Nisqually people, like his grandmother Angeline. Lately, he has been weaving ribbons of copper into hats and baskets.

Along with other Nisqually tribal members, McCloud gathers cedar bark in the spring, soaking it and peeling it to make it ready for use. A traditional cutting tool for making leather fringe has become a favorite way to split the cedar into the desired widths for weaving projects.

“There aren’t a lot of men who weave, but I’ve always done it,” said McCloud. “With COVID, I can do a video meeting and weave at the same time. I have made five hats already this year.”

Photos: Debbie Preston