Belle’s Baskets

            When Belle was a girl, she listened to Deg Hit’an legends told by her elders in kashims (community houses). She never imagined that someday she would be honored as an Alaskan Native artisan in Washington D.C.  

            Belle lived around Grayling and Anvik, Alaska, where Deg Hit’an men sawed trees to power the steamships that hauled supplies up the Yukon River. In the early 1900s, traders from the sternwheelers bought furs and salmon from her people, and her grandmother sold basketry.

            Belle gathered her grandmother’s stories, like she collected the trim pieces of birch bark beneath Grandmother’s craft table. It was the Deg Hit’an custom for an artisan never to verbally “teach” secrets to a student. A child learned the weaving craft by studying finger movements and observing techniques. Belle emulated Grandmother’s basket-weaving skills, practicing with the bark, fur and leather scraps.

            Later in life, Belle raised four children and buried two husbands. Belle saw railroads and airplanes replace sled dogs and steamships. Her fame as a basket maker spread beyond her Yukon River community to the museums of Anchorage.

            At 87 years old, Belle Deacon was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship for her basketry. She became a published author of the Deg Hit’an stories—the ones her grandmother and elders told. 

            Are there skills in our Christian experience that we should be teaching our young church families? Without meaning to, we may be hoarding our wisdom, convinced that no one would listen—but we are being watched

            Young couples often study a husband and wife as we face problems, pray together, grouse a bit, and work together.

            We are examples of God’s grace showcased for young-marrieds to analyze.

            Is it time to invite a young couple over for dinner to discuss HOW we have learned to interact lovingly (for the most part) with one another? In an era of instant gratification, young people need to know that it takes hard work, prayer, and a few tears to weave a basket strong enough to hold our faults and God’s grace.

Titus 2:11

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men…

Titus 2:1-2

 But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience…

Titus 2:3-4

…the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things—that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children…

Prayer Focus: God, show us those young people who may be on the brink of separating. Help us be the examples we need to be—and brave enough to explain to them how and why they must persevere.


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