Students and families entering the Samuel A. Salas Commons at the end of winter break were greeted with a bright new addition - a star quilt hanging in the northeast corner of the space.
The quilt is beautiful, intricately sewn with shades of red and yellow and featuring a unique design. But the story behind this quilt is what makes it even more unique - and an important part of Breck's history.In the spring of 2006, former Head of School Sam Salas was preparing for retirement. During a special presentation from Breck's Native American families, he was wrapped in this star quilt and told why he was — and would always be — cherished in the Breck community.
The Native American Blanketing tradition is strongly associated with a beloved relationship. Blankets are a source of protection and comfort. They keep us warm and bring beauty into a home. To offer a blanket, especially a handmade star quilt, as a gift to someone is one way we offer them care and love. When publicly given, a blanket acknowledges loving ties to the whole community.
This Sunburst Star quilt was made by Pat Stuen, a Turtle Mountain Chippewa elder and artist whose quilts have gone all around the world. In Native culture, gifts are not meant to be held on to as individual possessions, rather it is our most prized possessions that should be given away as a sign of deep care.
After many years of enjoying this star quilt in his home, Sam Salas, acting in a spirit of generosity, gave it back to the school. The Native students and parents at Breck are continuing this tradition in displaying the star quilt for the enjoyment of all.
Our Native students chose to display the blanket in the Sam Salas Commons. They wanted a recognizable Native symbol to serve as a sign of welcome to all Native people and to all human beings who enter the building. Below is an excerpt from a Native Breck parent as to the significance of a star quilt.
"Most Native American Nations have teachings about the stars, and for many peoples the sky is our place of origin. Although we are all unique, we all are made from the substance of the universe, the stars. They are the common ancestors of everything that is on earth. We are all connected by a vital and mysterious energy which is contained in our persons for a short time, then released again into the world. That is the teaching of the star quilt."
–Louise Erdrich, parent to Kiizh '19