Birchbark scribing or pictography is a rare old Anishinaabe (Chippewa) art form that Lise first learned about from her grandfather, Patrick “Au-nish-e-nau-bay” Gourneau who was an author, traditional leader and tribal historian. A deer bone tool or stylus is used to record songs and stories by making an impression upon the inside (paper) layer of the birchbark.
A Story of Buffalo Lodge—by Lise Erdrich, from oral and written history. Birchbark scroll depicts Sundance vision with 14 sacrifice poles and 3,000 dancers vowed by Many Eagles Setting at Buffalo Lodge near present-day Towner, ND. This pictograph was done before an audience at 2011 Twin Cities American Indian Arts Festival where Lise was selected as a traditional arts demonstration artist.
Turtle Mountain Creation Story—by Lise Erdrich, from tribal tradition of how North America was formed on Turtle’s back after the Great Flood. Pictography shows Nanaboozhoo in his battle with the Underwater Panther who resides in Devils Lake, ND and has the power to cause storms, rain and flooding.
“We are your basic day and night birch barkers,” states Pat Kruse, describing the commitment he and his son Gage share for keeping the Native American tradition of crafting birch bark alive and well in the 21st century. But instead of making the more typical baskets, lidded jars and vessels from birch bark, Pat and Gage work collaboratively to create “birch bark paintings.” Pat designs the compositions and Gage sews together all of the individual elements with deer sinew. “I’m like the composer,” explains Pat, “and my boy is like the band. I write the music and he plays it.”