Washington state apprenticeship program revives lost arts

click to enlarge Tule Matt Lodges - NATIONAL PARK SERVICES
National Park Services
Tule Matt Lodges

We've forgotten the old ways.

"Things that your grandma or your mom taught you. Now we've forgotten these things," says Lora Lea Misterly, cheesemaker at the Quillisascut Cheese Company. "We're sold on convenience so much and so much of these things seem inconvenient."

Misterly, for example, knows how to make cheese — like old-fashioned, straight-from-the-cow cottage cheese. She's been doing it since 1981. And Kate Lebo, a local piemaker and author, wants to learn how to make cheese.

"We're both interested in the domestic arts and how people used to live on the land and how it's being carried forward into the now and into the future," Misterly says.

So the Washington State Heritage Arts Apprenticeship Program is paying Misterly to be Lebo's teacher and Lebo to be Misterly's student in the fine art of cheese making.

"Their aim, as I understand it, is to create an institutional support for types of learning that don't happen within institutions," Lebo says.

As both of them know, not every skill can be learned from a book or even a YouTube video.

"You have to go spend time with your elders," Lebo says.

Cultural recovery artist Shawn Brigman, meanwhile, is focused on resurrecting "ancestral architectural heritage." He's using the grant from the Apprenticeship Program to pass on the technique of building tule mat lodges — the housing units used by local plateau tribes — to his apprentice, Andrew Finley.

"He's heavily involved with the [tribal] Salish language," Brigman says. Finley's teaching that language to his kids. His ancestors, after all, lived in those types of lodges.

It's not just a hobby, in other words. It's a way to keep the past alive.

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