Teaching the tradition of sweetgrass pulling to a younger generation

Local News

ST. STEPHEN, S.C. (WCBD) – It’s an art form and tradition that is a major part of Lowcountry living – sweetgrass basket weaving.

Approximately 50 basket weavers spent the day pulling the grass to make the baskets in St. Stephen.

The sweetgrass pull is the fifth time the Corps. Of Engineers has done this at their St. Stephen site.

Lynette Youson is a fifth-generation sweetgrass basket weaver. She is also an instructor for basket making.

“I was taught this art a little over 50 years ago by my great grandmother, Maggie Jefferson Williams, after her passing, I continue to weave with my mother Marilyn Dingle,” she said.

Youson weaves baskets you can buy at Mt Pleasant’s Waterfront Park.

On Tuesday, she was pulling wild sweetgrass from the banks of the Rediversion Canal in St. Stephen.

She said her great grandmother produced a quality product.

“When she would teach you how to weave, you weave stitch for stitch—something nice and tightly woven. Some people stitch wind, that’s not tolerated, she’d catch you winding, she would rip it out and make you start all over.”

It’s an important skill to pass on to the many kids at Miracle Academy who helped pull on Tuesday. The kids will also learn to weave baskets from this grass.

“Here I am today working with the 7th generation, my grandkids and we are trying to keep that tradition going on. The right way or no way at all.”

The Army Corps of Engineers started holding this annual sweetgrass pull when they discovered lots of natural sweetgrass growing near the canal.

“Each year we actually invite all of the local sweetgrass pullers, so we go down to the market in Charleston, we go up Highway 17 where you see the sweetgrass stands and we ask those pullers to come join us,” explained Lt. Col. Rachel Honderd, Commander, Charleston US Army Corps of Engineers.

“We’re learning about our culture and that’s good. so basically, it’s educational and it’s fun at the same time,” said Evan Middleton with Miracle Academy.

“This tradition is very important,” said Youson. “Because see, this tradition came over with my ancestors a little over 300 years ago, and if we don’t continue teaching the younger generation how to do it, we won’t have this art form anymore.”

The next step, of course, is to let this grass dry out and then they’ll be baskets you can buy right here in the Lowcountry.

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