Lesson: Traditions as Inspiration
I make art that is a reflection of me and a reflection of the culture that’s raised me.
–Jason Wesaw, Pokagon Band of Potawatomi
Learning Objective: Students will gain an understanding of the 13-month lunar calendar used by the Potawatomi. Students will create their own calendar inspired by traditions observed within their own family/community.
The Potawatomi, like many other Native American peoples, traditionally have a lunar calendar year marked by 13, 28-day moon cycles. According to artist Jason Wesaw, “Those 13 months guide us in either what work we’re supposed to be doing, or maybe what changes are happening on the land at that time of the year.” For instance, in some Potawatomi communities, June is also known as the Strawberry Picking Moon because it is the time when strawberries ripen and are ready to pick.
During one of Jason’s residencies at the Eiteljorg, he was homesick the night of the full moon. Missing the songs of the full moon ceremony, sitting around the fire, and eating with his community inspired him to create Gishkey Gises (Cedar Moon) that evening.
Jason says that the deep green shape coming up from the bottom of the piece represents the Cedar tree, which is a medicine that Potawatomi women use in the full moon ceremony. The Cedar is surrounded by 13 silver orbs, which represent the 13 moons of the calendar glowing in the sky.
Take a closer look at Jason’s work, Gishkey Gises (Cedar Moon). Why do you think Jason chose to use these colors? Can you find all 13 moons in his artwork?
Think about traditions that your family, school, or community has and create a calendar with one thing that you celebrate each month. Maybe it’s someone’s birthday, or a holiday, or the start of baseball season.
Words you need to know
Something that causes a person to feel, think, or act in a certain way.
A reciprocal connection between two or more things, thoughts, ideas, or people.
The formal activities conducted on an important day or special occasion.
A custom of belief shared by a particular group, family, or society that has existed for a long time.