On Earth Day, we published a beautiful photo of Linda Benson Kusumoto in her traditional Chilkat robe standing in front of the Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska.
To us, it captured the spirit of celebrating the Earth. Linda’s robe is made entirely of Pendleton Eco-Wise Wool, and was handmade by her. She was gracious enough to give us some information on it, as well as some photos of it at celebrations. Along with her Chilkat robe, she sent photos of her family wearing traditional button blankets, also made by Linda with Pendleton wool.
Here is some background, courtesy of Linda.
My name is Linda Benson Kusumoto. I am a Tsimshian Native, from Metlakatla, Alaska. I lived part of my life in Portland, Oregon, where I found your wool and studied our traditional arts. Benson is my maiden name and is a Tsimshian family name. When our tribe moved to Alaska, transitioned by Father Duncan (a missionary from England), the individuals were given English names. My grandparents were given the name of Benson.
Chilkat robe – I believe that this started with the Tsimshian (my tribe). Our tribe originated from British Columbia long the Nash River, Father Duncan moved half of our tribe to Metlakatla, Alaska. It is said that the Tsimshian were once of the Nisgaa tribe. I belong to both tribes as a registered tribal member, my primary tribe is the Tsimshian Nation of Metlakatla, Alaska. Our cities are Old Metlakatla, British Columbia and Metlakatla, Alaska on Annette Island (sometimes referred to as New Metlakatla). My father and grandparents were born and raised on Annette Island, Metlakatla, Alaska. I was born in Seattle, Washington. With me in the photos are my daughter, Kelli Jean Coy; my sister, Valerie Benson Callahan; and my first cousin, Coral Sumner Lehtinen.
Traditional Alaska Native Button Blanket – These are made in traditional colors of red & black, and sometimes in royal blue and/or ivory. These are designed, created and worn by the Tsimshian, Haida, and the Tlingit tribes of Alaska, especially for Celebration, held every other year in Juneau, Alaska.
Celebration – The button blankets and Chilkat robe shown in these photos have all been worn during Celebration, multiple years and for traditional potlatch ceremonies in Alaska. Here are some images of 2016 Celebration.
This is a photo of me wearing my full regalia for Celebration 2016. I also made leggings to match using Pendleton wool. And I am wearing our traditional red cedar bark hat.
Here is a button blanket that I made over 15 years ago and it still looks the same today. This photo was featured in the “Winds of Change” magazine when I won the Executive Excellence Professional award 2012 from the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (www.aises.org).
All photos Linda Benson Kusumoto, used with permission
Thank you so much, Linda, for sharing your traditions and robes with us. For anyone wondering where to buy Pendleton wool by the yard, here are two sources.
Pendleton Woolen Mill Store in Milwaukie, Oregon: You can stop by the store and see all the fabric offerings and special cuts in person! Or, you can peruse fabrics on the store’s blog and order over the phone. The store does ship internationally.
Woolen Mill Store Facebook (for store location, hours and phone number)
A wide selection of fabric is also available at the Pendleton website here: SHOP FABRIC