SaskTel Art Outside: Birch bark basket making

Birch bark is a pliable material that lends itself well to a variety of purposes, including making baskets. Don’t have access to birch bark? Try this activity with paper or card stock.

Supply List

  • Paper, card stock, or birch bark
  • Scissors, tape or glue (for paper and card stock baskets)
  • Awl or nail (for birch bark basket)
  • Spruce root or red willow (for birch bark basket)
  • Source of heat (for birch bark basket)


  • Use a square piece of paper, card stock, or birch bark
  • Make four small cuts (two each on opposite sides of the square), and bend the middle pieces up. For the birch bark version, use a heat source when bending to make the bark more flexible. Please use caution when working with flame or heat
  • Bend the side pieces up and overlap them with the middle piece to form a corner on each side
  • For paper or cardstock baskets, glue or tape the overlapped pieces into place
  • For birch bark baskets, as you hold the sides together, carefully use a sharp tool (awl or nail) to poke a hole on each overlap to create a place to thread the spruce root or red willow
  • Use red willow or spruce root to sew the sides together for the birch bark basket
  • Fill your basket with items such as keys, paper clips or other items you want to organize

A message from Lyndon J. Linklater on birch bark harvesting

As a Knowledge Keeper, I would like to share some “teachings” regarding the harvesting of birch bark.

The first thing I would not want to happen is to see people taking birch bark off of trees in our city.

As with all things in our culture, we are taught to offer tobacco to Elders or Knowledge Keepers for their teachings.

I spent two summers learning from Elders about birch bark harvesting: how to pick it, when to pick it and of course why to pick it.

I was taught if the birch bark is harvested at the appropriate time, the birch tree will live and bark will be regenerated. It will take many years but it will regenerate. If it is not done correctly, you will kill the tree.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like to learn more. Thank you!

Lyndon J Linklater Anishinabe/Nehiyow