UPEI Canadian Centre for Climate Change and Adaptation hosts exhibition by Mi’kmaw Elder Francis Jadis

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Baskets and photographs in Wisqoq, The Basket Tree exhibition
Baskets and family photographs are displayed in the "Wisqoq, The Basket Tree" exhibition by Climate-Artist-in-Residence Elder Francis Jadis at the UPEI Canadian Centre for Climate Change and Adaptation.

The UPEI Canadian Centre for Climate Change and Adaptation (CCCCA), in St. Peter’s Bay, PEI, is hosting an exhibition titled “Wisqoq, The Basket Tree,” by Climate-Artist-in-Residence Elder Francis Jadis, until May 7.

For millennia, wisqoq—or black ash—has been harvested by the Mi'kmaq for basketry, canoe construction, and much more. Jadis has created a collection of baskets to display among family photographs, visualizing how families and communities are woven together by the tradition of skill-sharing and storytelling that occurs while basket weaving.

In keeping with Earth Day on April 22, Island schools can book field trips to the CCCCA from April 22–26 to visit the exhibition and engage in related workshop programming. To book, please contact exhibition curator Alexis Bulman at alexis@creativepei.ca.

Once plentiful, wisqoq, which has adapted to grow in water-saturated soil, was found on the banks of rivers and in wet forests across the Maritime provinces and throughout Turtle Island (North America). The species is now in decline due to habitat loss, climate change-induced stressors, and invasive species such as the emerald ash borer, a wood-boring beetle. The emerald ash borer reached southwestern Ontario in 1992 and has since spread across Canada. The larvae feed on the inner bark and sapwood, eventually killing trees. Based on observed rates of spread, all wisqoq within Canada could be affected within one generation.

Jadis has been harvesting wisqoq in northern Maine his whole life, but his ability to do so has become increasingly complicated due to climate change, said Bulman.

“The diminishing population of wisqoq and the interconnectedness it symbolizes for families and communities is a reminder that the responsibility to safeguard this knowledge is a collective endeavour,” she said. “Together, we must act as stewards of the environment.”

A member of Abegweit First Nation on PEI, Jadis comes from a family of basket makers. He began learning basket weaving at six years old, and as his skills developed, he joined his parents, family, and community in the production of baskets. Over his 60 years as a basket weaver, he has designed and created baskets for personal and commercial uses—from potato baskets for the agricultural community to smaller and more intricate designs for tourism.

He has developed techniques to repair antique baskets, often working on those woven by his parents. Jadis continues to harvest in the territory where he was taught and processes all his materials. He is committed to ensuring black ash seeds and the skills he has developed over a lifetime are passed forward to future generations.

The exhibition is presented by Creative PEI in partnership with the CCCCA, with Indigenous PEI as the community partner, with financial support from the Government of PEI's Climate Challenge Fund. The CCCCA art gallery is open to the public every Friday from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm, and admission is free.

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