Upper Skagit tribal youth learn traditional cedar gathering

Students in the Upper Skagit Tribe’s summer youth enrichment program are learning traditional ways to gather and weave cedar.

Recreational youth coordinator Tara Rodriguez, who arranged the trip, said there haven’t been any organized cedar gatherings for tribal youth since she was a child.

In small groups, the 10- and 11-year-old students hiked into an old-growth forest in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest near Darrington, accompanied by education specialist Curt Pavia and biologist Doug Couvelier. Selecting a healthy cedar, Couvelier used a small ax to lift up the outer layer of bark before showing the students how to pull long strips from the tree.

After three or four strips were pulled, Couvelier moved students to another tree, ensuring no permanent harm was done to the trees.

Access to traditional gathering areas has declined as development has reduced the number of old-growth trees in the region. Tribal members are allowed to gather cedar by permit in national forests or by permission on private land.

The adult tribal members accompanying the students shared fond memories of cedar gathering when they were young.

“I used to come out here with my family to gather cedar, but a lot of these kids have never seen this,” said tribal member Richie Baker as he separated the rough outer bark from the pulled strips of cedar. “They won’t forget this experience.”

Tribal elder Clifford Edwards stripped cedar all afternoon, but went home empty handed. He gave all of his bundles to the students to take back to the reservation.

Once the cedar is dry, Rodriguez plans to have Edwards show the students how to weave headbands, hats and baskets.

“I hope next year we can do the same, and have even more trips with our tribal youth and elders,” she said.

View more pictures of the cedar gathering.

For more information, contact: Doug Couvelier, Timber/Fish/Wildlife biologist, Upper Skagit Tribe, 360-854-7090 or [email protected]; Kari Neumeyer, information officer, NWIFC, 360-424-8226 or [email protected].