This was a hard mission, I'll admit, but worth it. I thought long and hard about this one and spent ages looking up articles and trying to find a good fit. Then I realized, my recent volunteer time with the Akha Hilltribe in northern Thailand gave me first-hand experience about ancient ways, as the family I stayed with still gather lunch from the jungle and cook on an open fire.
When it was time for me to leave, I was guest of honour in a ceremony meal prepared just for me, and presented with a gift of their traditional bag. This bag is much more than just pretty, it has significance in every stitch, in every decoration. It tells a story, their story.
It was explained to me that the coins are real, brought with them when the Akha people fled from Burma (long before it was re-named Myanma) but worthless in Thailand. How sad I thought at the time, as the money was likely hard to come by. What a struggle it must have been for them to earn the coins only to have them end up as decorations.
Then I realized, while they would be considered poor, they do have a small farm with a few cattle, lots of chickens and a few wild pigs with a lot of little piglets running around. They have two rice paddys and a fair sized garden, and all the wild jungle food they could want. They don't go hungry. Money, while still a necessity, is not as important to them for survival.
That is the secret I want to pass on. Indigenous people got along without money for centuries and money isn't everything, but tradition is.
I didn't make this bag, but I did make the effort to find a place to volunteer and earned it. Inside the bag I have put coins from my country, Canada as well as from the United States to show we share a border and are good neighbours, and a feather from a dove for good luck.
If anything, they can use the coins as decorations.
Finally, to keep my bag safe so it can be passed around, I've put it in a plastic milk jug because we know plastic can last a very very long time and this one will be put to good use.