Dennis White — Saving Ancient Art

Dennis White, math and native language instructor and co-founder and former administrator of Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe School in Hayward, Wisconsin, practices the traditional Ojibwe craft of finger weaving where strands of yarn are braided into intricate patterns. Dennis completed an artist’s residency at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., where he studied materials relating to this vanishing skill.

The craft has been practiced in the Americas for three thousand years, and White notes that the Ojibwe have been doing it for at least three centuries. He says that his Smithsonian experience made him realize that “we really need people to learn it” — he’s one of a very few practitioners among the 150,000 Ojibwe who still populate the Great Lakes region.

Finger weaving is both an art form and a cultural imperative. Each braided pattern reflects an ancient Ojibwe story which Dennis will describe during his Native Art workshop. Dennis will also discuss the how weaving dovetails with his lifelong fascination with mathematics, the subject of his UW-Madison master’s degree.