SOOKE HISTORY: Grandma Sue’s cedar mat

Susan Lazzar grew up to feel reverence for nature in all its forms.

Grandma Sue weaves a cedar bark mat. The mat is on display at the Sooke Region Museum. (Contributed)

Elida Peers | Contributed

Back in the 1980s, we had the privilege of being able to watch Grandma Sue’s weaving skills on summer Sunday afternoons, as she sat on the lawn at the Sooke Region Museum.

In this photo she is weaving with cedar bark, and this particular mat can be seen displayed at the museum when it reopens to the public later this summer.

Grandma Sue’s traditional skills were demonstrated with bulrushes and with swamp grass, or sweetgrass, as well as with cedar.

As a little girl, she had grown up watching her own grandmother, Annie Jones, from the Pacheedaht, who had married Andrew Lazzar, chief of the T’Sou-kes, and it was at her grandmother Annie’s knee that the little girl Susan Lazzar became so knowledgeable.

A variety of woven items were made, from mats to baskets to bottle coverings to headbands and more. Grandma Sue grew up to feel reverence for nature in all its forms. When she wanted bark from a red cedar tree she would approach the tree and say, “Thank you, tree – I have come to cut some bark so I can make my baskets. I’ll only take what I need.”

ALSO READ: The fascinating and mysterious Grouse Nest

ALSO READ: A Girl Guide camp and a silver candelabra

She went on to explain to us: “We didn’t just take it from any tree. We used to get it from the east side of the tree where the sun comes up. And you only take a strip, so that the tree still lives – then it heals up. We used to bundle it up and pack it on our backs. That’s what the tumplines were for.”

Susan was one of the youngest of Chief Andrew Lazzar and his wife Annie’s 14 children, and a granddaughter of the old Chief Louis Lazzar and his wife Mary. It is no wonder she absorbed the culture as she grew up in the T’Sou-ke village at the estuary of the Sooke River; she used to say her mother did not describe what to do, but simply said, “Watch me.”

When she grew up she married George Cooper of the Songhees, and became mother of Jimmie Cooper, who grew up a community leader, elected several terms as chief.

Her life also included becoming mother to Gerry Lazzar, who is still a well-known member of the T’Sou-ke community. Several others of her descendants make their homes in the T’Sou-ke village today, treasuring the skills they learned from her.


Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sooke marine search and rescue cast their nets for volunteers

Non-profit looking for crew and society members

No plan in place if Sooke homeless shelter forced to shut doors

Contract for Otter Road facility now month to month

Three years for serial bank robber who hit Sidney branch

Lucas Bradwell was wanted for robberies in Sidney, Abbotsford and Vancouver

Cook Street Village grocery icon closing, new owners plan major renovation

Louie family has operated Oxford Foods and predecessor for five decades at Cook and Oxford streets

Couple that owned Sooke Harbour House awarded $4 million after lengthy court case

B.C. Supreme Court rules in favour of Frederique and Sinclair Philip

Rare fish washes onto Whiffin Spit in Sooke

Deep water fish identified as ‘King-of-the-salmon’

BC Liberal Leader talks drug addiction in the Lower Mainland

Drug addiction and public safety a top priority says Andrew Wilkinson

Island Corridor Foundation launches survey on importance of Vancouver Island rail

“ICF remains 100 per cent committed to the restoration of full rail service on Vancouver Island”

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Island RCMP remind drivers not to text after 19 tickets handed out in 90 minutes

The $368 fines were handed out Tuesday on Norwell Drive and Old Island Highway in Nanaimo

Vanderhoof’s Brian Frenkel takes on top job in tough times

We can get through this, new local government leader says

Local councils important, Horgan says as municipal conference ends

B.C. NDP leader says ‘speed dating’ vital, online or in person

Penticton woman sentenced to one year in prison for manslaughter of teen boyfriend

Kiera Bourque, 24, was sentenced for manslaughter in the 2017 death of Penticton’s Devon Blackmore

Most Read