Bill James

Tsi’li’xw is a Master Weaver and Lummi Nation’s Hereditary Chief. His uncles, born in the late 1800s, were his earliest guides on ancestral wisdom. Through subtle means, they taught him how to interpret the everyday banal as sacred by listening to the world. From this listening place, the land, the sky and sea unfolded as the “Ancient Ones.”

Tsi’li’xw’s mother, Fran James came from a long line of basket weavers and has been one of the most well-known weavers of the Pacific Northwest. Together, Tsi’li’xw and Fran inspired many young people to take-up basketry, and are credited with reviving and continuing the traditional weaving skills of the Lummi people. Their work can be found in many art and museum collections, including Seattle’s Burke Museum. In 1991, Tsi’li’xw and Fran were awarded the Peace and Friendship Award from the Washington State Capitol Museum for their contributions to Lummi culture.

Within their basketry teachingsexisted a worldview based on reciprocity. They taughthow to approach weaving materials of cedar and cherry fibre, bear grass, cattails and mountain goat woolin a sacred way: with prayers of gratitude- in their language- as an integral formof exchange.

Through sharing creation stories and the Lummi language, Tsi’li’xw advocates cultural resiliency. Since being invited to the University of Arizona’s linguistics department to hear archived audiotapes of past Lummi elders speaking, he has created a more accessible Lummi dictionary, and edited the traditional Lummi story, “Ch’eni, the Giant Woman Who Stole Crying Children,” for the 2008 anthology of Salish Myths and Legends.

As the hereditary tribal chief, Tsi’li’xw works simultaneously to protect the rights of the natural world, while extending his ancestral knowledge to young people.

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