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Brainerd artist's life is 'sweet'grass

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Sweetgrass — or “Wiingashk” in the Ojibwe language — is used in ceremonies and signifies the hair of Mother Nature or “Ogashiinan.”

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According to the Ojibwe culture, sweetgrass purifies the negative with the positive. You could say that sweetgrass is Brainerd resident Darlene Stone’s life.

“All of my life I have walked close to earth,” said Stone. “I have never felt that anyone is better than the other.

“Sweetgrass is endangered ... Sweetgrass truly is a gift from God.”

Stone is an artist and has worked with sweetgrass for years. She learned how to create art with sweetgrass from an elderly woman from the Mille Lacs Tribal Band, who passed away about five years ago at age 80.

“She was born in a wigwam on the shores of Mille Lacs Lake and taught many classes using sweetgrass, birch bark, beads, buckskin, etc.,” said Stone, “To quote the teacher I honor she said, ‘I try to give back to my community through my knowledge of traditional culture and sharing what I know.’ I am using her teachings to continue that tradition and to pass on the knowledge of the culture.

“Our cultures are so much alike. I believe in intermarriage.”

Stone, who is Finnish, grew up in Menahga and as an adult lived in Andover. She told her husband of 50 years that she had to move to the north woods to be closer to nature and that is when she moved to rural Brainerd.

Stone creates many art objects using items found in nature. She said using nature in her art pieces helps her find solace and peace.

Stone said at first she was a dollmaker and since then has created a variety of art pieces. She teaches students how to make sweetgrass necklaces and baskets and also how to make dragonflies out of dogwood. Stone also paints in watercolors, has made moccasins and she knits hats and shawls and other items.

Stone said sweetgrass needs to survive, as does the Ojibwe culture, and if no one teaches it, it will die.

“Sweetgrass takes any negative out of the body and replaces it with positive energy,” said Stone. “I wear mine all the time and it brings me so much positive energy.”

Stone said her passion in teaching the Ojibwe language and teaching people how to create art with sweetgrass.

Stone has two upcoming classes that will be conducted at the Northland Arboretum in Baxter. She will teach sweetgrass basket making from 1-5 p.m. Feb. 11 and dragonfly making from 1-4 p.m. March 18. The basket making class cost is $30 for arboretum members and $40 for non-members, which includes all supplies to make one basket.

The dragonfly making class cost is $20 for arboretum members and $25 for non-members, which includes all supplies to make one dragonfly.

To register for the classes call the arboretum at 829-8770.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at jennifer.stockinger@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5851. Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jennewsgirl.

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