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Weaving her own story: How a Bad River woman rediscovered the art of black ash weaving

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April Stone 1

April Stone set out to rediscover the lost Ojibwe art of making black ash baskets. Along the way, she found her own cultural roots and mended her relationship with her father in the bargain. (Staff photo/Peter J. Wasson)

April Stone’s fingers dance across the narrow, supple strips of black ash wood, softened in water to make it pliable.

Over, under, over, under. They’re the hands of a strong woman, forged by thousands of hours of beating on ash logs to extract the precious layers of wood locked inside, and then turning those layers into baskets of all sorts and sizes.

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Stone in her workshop with a supply of dried black ash wood, waiting to be woven. (Staff photo/Peter J. Wasson)

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It takes hours of pounding before a black ash tree can be persuaded to release strips of wood that Stone will transform into a basket. (Contributed photo)

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Every strip of wood is split by hand into even thinner layers that are flexible enough for weaving. (Contributed photo)

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Black ash, when treated with bear fat or oil, is so resilient that baskets like these are used to bake bread. (Contributed photo)

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Portage packs that can carry 50 pounds are Stone’s favorite to make, but they can take days to complete and sell for $450. (Contributed photo)

April Stone and her apprentice pound the soft, spring-growth ring of a log to get to the layer of wood below, which will be used to weave baskets.

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Stone with some of the baskets she uses in her everyday life at her home near Mellen. (Staff photo/Peter J. Wasson)

(Copyright © 2021 APG Media)

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