Biskakone Greg Johnson: What Makes a Place Home?
“Home is where we harvest our fish. Home is where we knock the rice. Home is out there in the canoes. Home is when we are out there with our families and we’re picking those berries, getting scratched up in the thorns, you know, that’s home.
Home is also above the clouds where our ancestors go into the stars, into the northern lights. That’s our other home—where we come from and where we go in the end.
Home is where we raise our children.
Home is where we make our life with our partner.
Home is all those things, you know. That means home is a huge range, you know, a huge range, and within it we can find all the things that will give us the good life.”– Biskakone Greg Johnson
In this lesson students explore the theme of Home while learning about the life and work of Ojibwe artist Biskakone Greg Johnson. The artist lives with his partner, artist Anungo Kwe Alexandria Sulainis, and their children, in Lac Du Flambeau, Wisconsin, the land that was home to many generations of his ancestors. The students discover that the artist’s idea of home relates to the places where he and his people live and continue the day-to-day traditions that have been passed down through the years. Johnson continues many of the craft traditions of his Ojibwe culture, including beading, weaving, moccasin making, and the techniques and process of birch bark etching. He creates and embellishes baskets and containers made from the local tree bark, repeating images that represent the natural world. After making connections with their own ideas about home, students list the places, special times, people, and ideas that help define home for them. They are asked to consider symbols or images that might represent their associations with the theme. Borrowing from the Ojibwe tradition of birch bark etching, students create India ink or crayon etchings, using imagery to suggest their own associations with the idea of Home.
Estimated Time: Seven 45-minute class periods
Grade Level: 7–12
Craft In America Theme/Episode: HOME
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