Wellness & Wisdom Blog

Legacy Woven Anew: Recreating the Healing Robe

March 27, 2024
Wellness & Wisdom Blog

Juneau, AK –  Several decades ago, SEARHC was gifted a healing robe, hand made by weaver Clarissa Hudson. Clarissa Rizal (Lampe Hudson), was a Tlingit artist best known as a Chilkat and Ravenstail weaver who also worked in painting, printmaking, carving and sculpting. The beautiful black and red healing robe was previously utilized and stored at the Mt. Edgecumbe Medical Center (MEMC) in Sitka – where it was placed on those patients close to the end of their respective life journey. The blanket/robe is used to wrap a person and hold them up as they transition from life to death. Since the original healing blanket was woven more than 30 years ago, it had broken and missing buttons as well as loose threads, and was in need of repair.

Sherry Patterson, System Director of Patient Experience for SEARHC, was charged with finding someone in the community who could mend the healing blanket for SEARHC. Fate intervened when Sherry ran into Lily Hope, an Alaska Native artist, designer, teacher and weaver based in Juneau. Lily is well known throughout the southeast region for her pristine skills weaving customary Northwest Coast ceremonial regalia such as Chilkat robes and ensembles.

Sherry inquired if Lily would be able to mend or re-create the healing blanket. When the ladies spoke further, Lily asked to inspect the current healing blanket. When she did, both ladies were shocked to see the label – Handmade by Clarissa Hudson. Lily said she would be happy to re-create the healing blanket as the original version was woven by her own mother, Clarissa Hudson!!

Lily shared that her mother, Clarissa, started teaching her and her siblings how to weave when she was just four years old. Lily’s auntie, Deanna Lampe, also helped her mom to weave the original healing blanket. Although Clarissa passed away seven years ago, Deanna joined Lily to work on the new blanket. More than 400 hours later, Lily, accompanied by Auntie Deanna, presented a brand-new version of the healing blanket to SEARHC.

Lily gave some explanations on the symbolism. The outside rings of the blanket represent ancestors welcoming and supporting the individual to their next transition, waiting for that person with open arms. Healing is a lifelong journey , and these robes are used to bring comfort and provide strength. Ancestors are represented to support the transition into the next journey. The mother of pearl buttons used on both healing blankets were originally harvested from the Mississippi River and were sewn on with waxed dental floss.

“Auntie Deanna is the youngest of my mom’s sisters. She was there. Her hands were there,” Lily shared. “It feels like a gift to wake up and do what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s been life affirming.”

Lyndsey Schaefer

The views and opinions expressed on the Wellness & Wisdom Blog belong to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium. The Wellness & Wisdom Blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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