“That’s the hard part — the base,” says Rachel Gibson with a smile. “You learn to work the cedar as you go. It has a life of its own, you can’t fight with it.”

It’s a Monday evening in May and Gibson is seated at a table in the high-ceilinged café at the Musqueam Community Centre. In front of her, thin strips of dark brown cedar bark lie soaking in a plastic container full of water. In her hands, she holds the beginnings of a delicate cedar basket, which she is patiently weaving over a cardboard tube. All around her, other Musqueam community members are bent over various cedar projects: a rope bracelet, a bigger basket, a large, bell-shaped hat.

“I’m on my second basket, the first one was so loose!” Gibson says with a laugh. “I’m already a lot better.”​

Cedar bark soaks in water as a first step in the cedar projects.

Gibson and two family members started the “Connecting to Cedar” program in March, after receiving a $1000 UTown@UBC Community Animation Grant. Ten to twenty community members have been attending each Monday, learning the basics of cedar bark weaving from expert instructor Todd De Vries.

UTown @ UBC Community Animation Grants Expand to Musqueam

“Connecting to Cedar” is one of 13 projects to receive UTown @ UBC Community Animation Grants this spring. The program has been dispensing amounts of up to $1,000 for projects to enhance vibrancy and dynamism on campus since 2011.

A new partnership with the Vancouver Foundation has allowed Campus + Community Planning to expand the program beyond UTown @ UBC residents so that anyone affiliated with the Vancouver campus (students, staff, and faculty who do not live on campus) are now eligible — including Musqueam community members such as Rachel Gibson.

A second Musqueam project that received a grant will begin next month, with Musqueam community members Jordan Wilson and Debra Sparrow and MOA curator Susan Rowley combining their expertise to bring a 100-year-old loom in the museum back to life.

The beginnings of a cedar basket.​

Bringing the Community Together

“It’s so calming. Weaving cedar has been a way of life for us for so long,” says Gibson.

“We have a potluck meal at the start of each session, and space is free, as is the tea and coffee. We’re lucky for that — we’re able to stretch the grant a long way. A few people are sponsored; one youth, one elder, and one disabled community member.”

“We enjoy each other’s company, just as much as working with the cedar,’ she adds with a laugh. “It brings the community together.”

For more information on UTown @ UBC Community Animation Grants, or to apply for a grant yourself, visit the website.