Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A star to wish upon

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The package was small but heavy. I wondered what it was. Once in a while people mail me handwritten letters, homemade gifts and little treasures from the past.

This one turned out to be from the last category. It was a multicoloured beaded star, measuring almost 60 centimetres in diameter. Wow.

The design was an eight-pointed star -- the kind you see on star blankets. The beads used to make it are large ones, with a nice woven pattern. The colours grow out of the centre star in graduated borders of red, orange, yellow, white, black, blue and green.

There was also a tricolour spiral-weave necklace, almost resembling a bolo tie except instead of a centre medallion, there is a beaded "bridge" to join the two sides together. My son took an immediate liking to this necklace and put it on.

I'm an experienced beader from back when I was a teenager. I could tell right away the necklace and the star had likely taken many hours to create. What a great treasure. There are a few loose beads here and there on the star, but minor considering its age.

The beaded items were from a woman named Delores.

Delores is 80 years old, and she's downsizing to a smaller place. She inherited the beadwork from a gentleman friend who'd been given them or purchased them from aboriginal friends. He'd spent many years working in northern Manitoba, on Baffin Island and at other posts as an electrical engineer.

Dolores said the beadwork was authentic aboriginal made. She wanted to give them to me because she felt I would appreciate them, or I could pass them on to someone else in the aboriginal community. What a sweetheart that Dolores is.

My son and I tried to figure out what the star was for. It thought maybe it was supposed to be tucked inside the necklace somehow. It wasn't meant for that because it looked awfully weird, like a beaded hankie sticking out of my neck.

I felt like a Neechie Liberace.

Then my son put the star on top of his head, so it hung down over his eyes like the veil of a powwow dancer. That didn't work either, but it looked kind of cool.

Finally we decided the two items were separate, and the star was like a huge, beaded doily.

The beadwork was very much appreciated, as are all the items I've been given over the years. I considered getting the star framed so I could hang it on my wall.

But now, a few weeks later, I'm not so sure Dolores's gift is mine to keep. Maybe it has something to do with repatriation -- returning cultural items to their rightful owners.

It was nice of Dolores to repatriate it to me, but maybe it's my responsibility to find it a good home.

The star is at most 50 years old and worth a few hundred dollars but it likely won't be of museum interest for many years.

Finding the person who beaded the star -- or at least their family -- would be all but impossible since there are no markings to identify the person who created it. I did a little research to find out where it came from but found nothing.

Then again, there's something to be said about the generosity of aboriginal people. It's why we are all here today, after all. This star is a sign of that generosity and maybe that's what I should honour.

Maybe something given away in respect and kindness should then be given away again, and again.

Perhaps this star is meant for something other than a spot on my wall. Maybe it should be donated somewhere, or given to some deserving aboriginal person.

So I've got to figure out what to do with it. As always, your suggestions are welcome.

Colleen Simard is a Winnipeg writer.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 3, 2012 J6

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