Culture

Samurai Return to Fukushima to Uphold 1,000-Year-Old Tradition


Fukushima Samurai - The Story of Identity is a powerful series by photographer Noriko Takasugi that features portraits of Japanese men upholding a 1,000-year-old samurai tradition. Back in 2011, when the cataclysmic earthquake and tsunami hit Fukushima Prefecture, many people lost their homes and were forced to abandon their city, but as proven by these strong men, they did not lose their historical heritage or sense of culture.
Takasugi documents brave men who have opted to head back into the contaminated areas only a few months after the devastating disaster to maintain their annual celebration of samurai culture at the Soma Nomaoi festival. Takasugi says, "Having spent a month with the local people between summer and autumn 2012, I believe Soma Nomaoi is not just an event but an embodiment of their identity and fight for survival. This unique sense of identity represents not only how, but why, they live."
Noriko Takasugi website

This May Look Innocent, But It’s Very Wrong. In Fact, It’s Probably Much Worse Than You Think.

December 4, 2013 Entertainment

Not to sound like a disgruntled extra on the set of Grumpy Old Men, but young people nowadays are focused on one thing and one thing only: technology. More specifically? The tiny screen that they carry and center their lives around. Sure, it’s necessary to check your email and answer calls from your mother (please talk to your mother), but doing any of this is totally unnecessary:























Woodland Indian Educational Programs


Woodland Indian Lifeways



Making Cattail Mats
By Woodland Indian Educational Programs
Demonstrated by Jessica Diemer-Eaton
Special thanks to Christina Zirpoli for the photos
Special thanks to Walt Godek for the cattails


Exterior-use cattail mats were used to cover and insulate wigwams.  They are probably most well-known in the western Great Lakes region, however such mats were utilized historically all over the Northeastern cultural area.  They were created in the most resourceful manner, with no excess time given to their creation as they had short life-spans when used on the exterior of the home (thought to be about 3 years) unlike the interior mats which were carefully woven with fantastic designs.

Cattails are cut when matured.  In most areas of the northeast, this will be from mid-June to late August.  The cattail leaves are then separated and laid on the ground in a breezy spot for the next few days, until they lose most of their green color.

So why use cattail leaves and not the cattail stalk or round cane grasses?  Because the leaves are thick and foamy, large enough to be sewn through when making the mat.  Such foamy leaves also acts as-built in insulation, and the leaves’ shape naturally guides water down and away from the mat.

how to make a cattail mat

how to make a cattail mat

Before using the dried cattails, they were moistened.  Some have historically said cattail mat making was a morning project as the morning dew automatically moistened the cattail leaves.

how to make a cattail mat

So why then are the leaves dried for a few days only to be moistened before using?  Because the fresh, green cattail leaves will shrink as they dry, and if used before they shrink, they will certainly create gaps between the leaves.  The cattail leaves must be moistened before use in order to make them less brittle when working with them.

how to make a cattail mat

When starting a cattail mat, a cord that serves to be the top edge in which the cattails are secured to must be run horizontally.  The length of the cord dictates the length of the cattail mat.  To secure each cattail leaf, fold the bottom of the leaf over the string and use another cord to secure each fold.  In the case of double-leaf mats, each leaf is matched with another, bottom to top, before it is folded over the cord and secured.  Remember to alter each leaf: front, back, front, back, and so on.

how to make a cattail mat

how to make a cattail mat

cattail mat

The next step is sewing the body of the mat together.  About 6 inches from the top, the first string is sewn through the leaves horizontally; the traditional flat needle with a central threading hole employed historically for this task was usually made from a section of deer or buffalo rib, however a modern upholstery needle can be used for the same task.  The cord was historically made from nettles, milkweed, or dogbane (Indian hemp) fibers, but if you are not a cordage maker, then craft hemp of a small gauge will do the job.  Such cord can be used single or doubled. When the needle and cord are passed through a section of leaves, care must be given to keep pressure on the leaves where the needle is passing or risk tearing the leaves where sewn. The horizontal sewing is continued every 6-8” until the bottom of the mat is reached, where a raw edge is left.  A raw edge is preferred as it will not impede the water from running down and off the bottom edge of the mat.

how to make a cattail mat

how to make a cattail mat

So why are the cattail mats sewn and not woven?  By sewing the leaves together side-by-side, it created a seal between most sides of the leaves.  This seal then only became stronger as the mat got wet and swelled, protecting the inner layers of cattail mats under it, therefore keeping the home interior dry.  If the mats were woven, the weft cords would create gaps between the vertical cattail leaves, as well as make horizontal depressions that would pool water and guide the water to the spaces between the leaves.  With this, sewing was generally less time consuming than weaving, which is a good thing since these are exterior mats.  Such exterior mats probably had about a 3 year lifespan, which was short when compared to the interior woven mats.

how to make a cattail mat

The result is a cattail mat that is light weight and rolls up, making it a perfect material to transport to a location of use (ex. hunting camps).  When the mat is layered with others, 3 to 5 layers thick on a wigwam frame, these mats not only keep the residents inside dry in rain, but also warm in snowy weather.  While bark sheets could also be used to cover a wigwam, they did not insulate the home in the way interior and exterior reed mats did.

cattail mat

Museums, nature centers, history parks and outreach organizations: We conduct cattail mat making workshops.  To read more about this workshop and others we offer, please click here.

Click here to learn more about building wigwam frames, and coming soon are pages on covering wigwams and wigwam interiors, so please check back.

ICELAND. No news from Iceland?… why?

How come we hear everything that happens in Egypt but no news about what’s happening in Iceland:

In Iceland, the people has made the government resign, the primary banks have been nationalized, it was decided to not pay the debt that these created with Great Britain and Holland due to their bad financial politics and a public assembly has been created to rewrite the constitution.

And all of this in a peaceful way. A whole revolution against the powers that have created the current global crisis. This is why there hasn’t been any publicity during the last two years: What would happen if the rest of the EU citizens took this as an example? What would happen if the US citizens took this as an example.

This is a summary of the facts:

2008. The main bank of the country is nationalized.
The Krona, the currency of Iceland devaluates and the stock market stops. The country is in bankruptcy

2008. The citizens protest in front of parliament and manage to get new elections that make the resignation of the prime minister and his whole government.
The country is in bad economic situation.
A law proposes paying back the debt to Great Britain and Holland through the payment of 3,500 million euros, which will be paid by the people of Iceland monthly during the next 15 years, with a 5.5% interest.

2010. The people go out in the streets and demand a referendum. In January 2010 the president denies the approval and announces a popular meeting.
In March the referendum and the denial of payment is voted in by 93%. Meanwhile the government has initiated an investigation to bring to justice those responsible for the crisis, and many high level executives and bankers are arrested. The Interpol dictates an order that make all the implicated parties leave the country.

In this crisis an assembly is elected to rewrite a new Constitution which can include the lessons learned from this, and which will substitute the current one (a copy of the Danish Constitution).
25 citizens are chosen, with no political affiliation, out of the 522 candidates. For candidacy all that was needed was to be an adult and have the support of 30 people. The constitutional assembly starts in February of 2011 to present the ‘carta magna’ from the recommendations given by the different assemblies happening throughout the country. It must be approved by the current Parliament and by the one constituted through the next legislative elections.

So in summary of the Icelandic revolution:
-resignation of the whole government
-nationalization of the bank.
-referendum so that the people can decide over the economic decisions.
-incarcerating the responsible parties
-rewriting of the constitution by its people

Have we been informed of this through the media?
Has any political program in radio or TV commented on this?
No! The Icelandic people have been able to show that there is a way to beat the system and has given a democracy lesson to the world



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