Rose and Francis Cree are highly respected Ojibwe elders on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in north central North Dakota. As is the case with many elders, their lives reflect the intersection of artistic skill, tribal knowledge, and cultural authority. The Crees collaborate in making willow baskets, both collecting the materials, while Francis makes the frames from ash and Rose weaves the willows. Both are also storytellers and keepers of Ojibwe cultural knowledge. Francis is a singer, a spiritual leader, a carver of pipes, and a keeper of the ceremonial drum for the Dunseith community.
In addition, both Rose and Francis Cree teach young people in their community about Ojibwe culture through school programs. They mentor local youth and participate in the North Dakota apprenticeship program. In 1984, the Crees received the North Dakota Governor's Award for the Arts. The Crees set an important example, according to North Dakota folklorist Troyd Geist. "We would like to see this humble, generous, and artistic couple recognized nationally not only for the quality of the artistic traditions they uphold but also for showing us that traditional art is not apart from other aspects of life, that it is a way of life."
National Endowment for the Arts · an independent federal agency