Cedar bark roses are a traditional First-Nations craft in the Pacific Northwest, including for Lingít people. Soaked strips of cedar bark are folded into golden roses which dry stiff and light.
As part of Alaska Public Media’s ongoing community reporting project on wellness, reporter Rachel Cassandra talked to Frank Hughes in Kake, a village in Southeast Alaska. He and his wife have made thousands of roses over the years. And he says he’s discovered that for him, they have a unique healing effect.
The following is a transcript:
Frank Hughes: My name is Frank Hughes. I’m retired. I’m Lingít and Aleut. Eagle clan Killer Whale Dakl’aweidí. I’ve been here in Kake since May of 1986. I served in the Army in 1975 to 1983.
I’m a disabled veteran – service connected hearing loss ringing in my ears constantly. [It] don’t go away.
And it bothers me sometimes because I’m hearing it all the time. And it affects who I am. Because I struggle with hearing. People are talking to me. I can’t hear what they’re trying to say, especially if they’re behind me.
We harvest the bark off the tree. There’s red cedar and yellow cedar. We use what’s available. Usually, the wife gets the good stuff and I get the leftover stuff. And I think that’s just my nature, but I make stuff out of it.
Probably 2010, again, the wife and I were making roses. We were gonna sell them to the tourists just to keep us busy. And then all of a sudden, I’m sitting in my chair. I can oversee the water. And then as I started making the rose, I started saying, “There it goes.” I said something to that effect, “It’s gone.” And she said, “What?”
I said, “The ringing in my ears, it stopped.” And then I started picking it back up again.
And I said to myself, “This is nice. This is really nice.”
So I set it down, picked up another one like that. And all of a sudden, you know, I got a pile of like 20. I said, “I’ve never felt this good in a long time. It makes me feel good.”
When I’m making the roses, it’s the only relief I get.
And I told my wife I said, “When I’m making these roses, don’t bother me. Don’t ask me anything like that. Only if it’s an emergency, you know, [if] the house is on fire or [an] earthquake comes, or a tidal wave — then bother me. But other than that, you know, it’s only two minutes and anything else can wait.”
So, it’s one of the things that again, it’s the only relief that I get and nobody else can see it. Nobody else hears it, but we can talk about it. For two minutes, just don’t bother me.
Frank has told his doctors about his experience and they say if it works, keep doing it. But they can’t explain it.
This story was produced as part of Alaska Public Media’s Community Wellness Project, a collaborative initiative with rural Alaskans to talk about what wellness means to them. Some stories are told by community members working as citizen reporters. Unlike other journalism projects, participants have input in the editing process and give consent to the final version of the story. People who are interviewed may receive small honorariums for sharing their knowledge and time. Citizen reporters are paid for their work. This project is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.