Community Spirit Awards—the North Dakota edition

To honor a woman who has demonstrated a steadfast patience and passion to maintain her tribe’s traditional art forms, First Peoples Fund will host the Jennifer Easton Community Spirit Awards—the North Dakota edition, in Georgianna Houle’s hometown of Belcourt, North Dakota, on Thursday, July 18, 2013.

The event, which will take place from 1-4 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus on Highway 5, will honor Houle, who is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.

“Georgianna has set a wonderful example for the people in her community through her willingness and effort to pass along the traditions and culture of her tribe,” said First Peoples Fund President Lori Pourier. “We are excited to join her community in honoring her work, her legacy and her future as a culture bearer.”

Houle first learned to weave red willow baskets at the age of nine while watching her mother and grandmother. Her grandmother learned the art by studying a migratory worker who weaved baskets as they rode a freight train to work and passed the skill on to her family members.

Houle has since focused on doing the same—passing the art form from her generation to the next—in the hope that it provides them with a solid cultural foundation and a sustainable way to make a living.

Houle said she was honored to receive a CSA and to join a group of artists who have demonstrated a deep sense of purpose and consistency in sharing their art with their communities.

The awards are given each year to recognize the exceptional passion, wisdom and purpose the recipients bring to their art and the communities they serve. This year’s CSA honoring ceremonies are taking place right in the communities where the artists live and work, giving the people who are most impacted by the work of the recipient the chance to encourage and celebrate alongside the artist.

Houle has spent several years visiting local schools and community colleges, teaching children and adults how to weave the baskets, which can be challenging and tedious to make. Her baskets have been sold regionally and some of her grandmother’s baskets have been displayed in the Smithsonian Institute.

“She continues to be committed to holding onto the traditions that are so important to our tribe,” said Leah McCloud, tourism director for the Tribal Mountain Band of Chippewa Tourism. “Each art piece is authentic in design and creation.”

Houle said she hopes to continue teaching and selling the baskets and is one of several artists who will teach at the Turtle Mountain Tribal Arts Association’s new location in Belcourt.

“Georgianna’s willingness to mentor and teach others, so they too can benefit from their tribe’s traditional art forms, is a testament to her work ethic and spirit,” Pourier said. “We look forward to recognizing her for her hard work.”