What it meant to Natives then Besides being a necessity for survival, –Baskets were a powerful symbol of culture and spirituality –They believed in a scared relationship between nature and humans Basketry was the factor connecting the relationship
What it meant to Natives then The Culture of Basketry –Certain practices must be observes before plants can be gathered for making baskets Coins, acorns, tobacco, or herbs are either places on the ground –Or burned to help carry prayers up to the heavens
What it meant to Natives then When picking plants, the basket weaver tells the plant what purpose they will serve –The Natives have a deep understanding: The plants are the masters, they have been there the longest
What it means to Natives Today: a necessity for cultural revival –the art of basket weaving is not what it once was Factors that affect this is: –Land development –Pesticide –Politics
What it means to Natives Today Basketry is important in the revival of the culture –It is a custom that has been passed on from generation to generation That has served a as practical utility and as a religious connection with nature
What it means to Natives Today As younger generations become less interested in the basketry –traditional knowledge and practices threaten to be lost
What it means to Natives Today With the lost of traditional basketry, – There is also a lost of respect for the sacred relationship between nature and people
The cultural issues brought up In the past, baskets were made primarily for utility and versatility –Few were made for ceremonial purposes.
The cultural issues brought up Now, because of modern technology and the existence of better storage solutions, –the primary reason for the making of baskets is symbolism or ceremony
Elsie Comanche Allen Pomo Master Basket Weaver (1899-1990)
Elsie Allen Biography Part I Born Elsie Comanche to George and Annie Comanche, on September 22, 1899 near Santa Rosa, California. As a young child Elsie lived an isolated area with her grandmother, Nellie Burke, near the village of Cloverdale, speaking only the Pomo language. In 1910, Elsie began her formal education at the Indian boarding school in Covelo, located in northern Mendocino County, a full 80 miles away from home. Being so far from home, and speaking only Pomo at the all-English school, was a difficult transition for her. Elsie did poorly at school and returned home after a year at the boarding school in Covelo because she began feeling like an outcast and was being forced to perform seemingly meaningless activities.
Elsie Allen Biography Part II At age 13, Elsie began attending a new government Indian school near her home in Hopland. –It was during this time that she was able to learn English and continue her education while working in the fields to supplement the family income. At the age of 16, Elsie sought greater opportunities than she had as a farm laborer. –It was during that time that a Catholic priest in Ukiah helped Elsie to secure a position as a domestic in San Francisco. In 1919 Elsie married a northern Pomo named Arthur Allen.
Elsie Allen Biography Part III Between 1920 and 1928 they Elsie and Arthur had four children: Genevieve, Leonard, Dorothy, and George. Elsie continued to work in the fields while raising her family. At the age of 62, Allen was finally able to devote more time to her basket making. –She began to teach the art at California's Mendocino Art Center - to Indians and non-Indians alike. She was resolute in her belief that this art and its associated traditions not be lost to antiquity.
Elsie Allen Biography Part IV 1972- Wrote Pomo Basket Making: A Supreme Art for the Weaver –Recounts her life story and documents in detailed pictures and print the fine art of Pomo basket making. Some observers have suggested that Allen's most notable contribution was rescuing the art of Pomo basket making from oblivion. Her baskets are on display in both public and private collections around the world. At the age of 91, Elsie Comanche Allen died on the 31st of December, 1990.
Why Elsie Became a Basket Weaver Part I When her grandmother passed away in 1924, Allen lost an important link to her people's past. Since it was traditional for a woman's baskets and materials to be buried with her, Allen was left with few weaving examples to follow after her grandmother's death.
Why Elsie Became a Basket Weaver Part II Allen's mother, Annie, continued the family custom. Allen had watched both her mother and grandmother make baskets while she was a child and began gathering and preparing materials for weaving when she was older. Her mother had actively pursued the craft of basket making, displaying her works at fairs and promoting the art in the California
Impact on Society I Elsie maintained the tradition of female influence within the Pomo nation. A female chief exercised authority over women's issues and concerns and Elsie contributed to this tradition by maintaining her membership on the Pomo and Hintil women's clubs Elsie worked for her people by promoting education, cultural preservation, and Indian rights in the community. Elsie's community regarded her as a cultural scholar, and she became known as "Pomo Sage," acquiring an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree.
Impact on Society II From 1979 to 1981 Elsie Allen was associated with the Native American Advisory Council, one of her most notable achievements. Through this she participated in the Sonoma State University's Warm Springs Cultural Resources Study, a cultural and historical record of the Makahmo and Mahilakawna (Dry Creek/West Creek) Pomo. While Elsie was still on the Native American Advisory Council, the Native American Advisory Council formed a partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the Warm Springs Dam-Lake Sonoma Project.
Impact on Society III The proposed dam and lake, intended to provide flood control, fresh water, and recreational facilities in the Russian River area, carried with it the potential to destroy indigenous plants that native peoples valued for medicinal, economic, ceremonial, and artistic uses. As a member of the council, Allen contributed to an ethno-botanical mitigation study –an examination of the plant lore of the Pomo tribe and the impact of environmental changes on the area and its people –was instrumental in organizing a large scale relocation of endangered plants.
"Basket weaving needs dedication and interest and increasing skill and knowledge; it needs feeling and love and honor for the great weavers of the past who showed us the way. If you can rouse in yourself this interest, feeling and dedication, you also can create matchless beauty and help me renew something that should never be lost." ~Elsie Comanche Allen
Tradition: A Double Edged Sword When Elsie’s mother Annie’s health began to decline, Annie adamantly insisted that her baskets not be buried with her, so that they might be enjoyed and studied by future generations. –Elsie Allen met with much resistance from her relatives and other members of the Pomo nation over this issue, but she respected her mother's dying wish - and she promised her mother that she, too, would carry on the tradition By not following the tradition of burying or burning the possessions of the deceased, Elsie discontinued a tradition which had been followed for many generations. –In discontinuing one tradition, she was able carry on another. Was this the right choice? What would you have done?
Dissapointment In her book (1972), Elsie expresses disappointment at the results of her attempts to teach the art and craft, although her basketry classes were well-attended by white women. This, and growing attention from universities actually helped to create a more positive climate for California Indian people. But it still disappointed her that people of her own culture were not as enthusiastic about the tradition; in comparison to the white women who attended her class, there were very few Pomo.
A Successor Elsie found a true apprentice to study the art with her, and to carry it on, and to teach others. This photo shows Elsie at her home in 1980, with her grand- niece, Susie Billy holding the start of a basket at the right.
California Indian Basketweavers’ Association Resources: Gathering Materials and How CIBA Helps
What is CIBA? California based organization dedicated to preserve, promote, and perpetuate California Indian basketweaving traditions Working to create a functioning network of basketweavers who support one another in their gathering and weaving activities, and who pass their tradition to the next generation
How CIBA Accomplishes its Goals Promoting and providing ways to showcase work Increasing access to gathering resources Providing education Monitoring land use, protecting and conserving traditional Native resources
Types of Resources Plantlife – Bushes – Roots – Branches – Seed pods – From cattails to willows to sedge roots After harvested, plants are aged so they remain straight
Examples of Plants Used for Basketry Willows California Hazel Redbud Sedges Bear Grass Pines –Willows and redbud also used as dyes in contrasting colors for baskets (white and red)
Gathering Plant materials must be gathered at the right time of the year Requires travel of long distance to where the plants go Dig roots, cut shoots, branches, canes, seed pods It takes as long or longer to gather and prepare materials for a traditional basket as to make it
More Gathering Basketmakers must learn from older women – where the plants grow – how to identify them – what parts to take and when to take them – how to prepare them
Resources are Scarce Few tribes have a sufficient land base to gather materials Basket weavers often rely on public lands to meet their needs Public and private land managers engage in or allow practices that can degrade or destroy basketry resources and gathering sites Herbicides are used to control "undesirable" plants, destroying or contaminating fish, wildlife and other plants Regulations and policies that limit access to public lands and traditional resources
CIBA’s Resource Protection Program Strives to halt the use of pesticides on public and private wildlands Promote alternative, less harmful resource management practices Seek to improve and enhance safe, convenient access to gathering areas and cultural sites Educate policy makers and land managers about traditional Native natural resource management practices
CIBA’s Basketweaver Support Program Seeks to provide conditions necessary for basketweaving traditions to thrive again Bring basketweavers together at annual gatherings, and in communities, to teach, learn, support and inspire each other Additional income-earning opportunities for basketweavers provided through California and western regional basketweaver resource directories
44Clayton Su Pesticides, Pollution, Policies and Rights
45Clayton Su Pesticides Highly used in California Pros? Cons?
46Clayton Su Pesticides and the Earth Pollution to watersheds and groundwater Kills native plants Deforms non- targeted plants Plants that have experienced deformities due to pesticides (curled leaves, stunted stems, and irregular leaf growth).
47Clayton Su Pesticides and Animals Health risks to animals Unbalanced ecosystems Elimination of food sources
48Clayton Su Pesticides and Humans Acute poisoning Fertility problems Cancers Altered body function Death
49Clayton Su How Do Pesticides Affect Basket Weavers? Gathering and basket weaving techniques Health risks CIBA’s policies on the use of pesticides
50Clayton Su California Indian Policies Original gathering sites owned by Federal Government Current Federal Gathering Policy Why?
51Clayton Su What Can/Is Being Done? California branches of the USFS and BLM policies Informing other tribes Opposition to current policy and reworking of policy
Bibliography http://www.ciba.org http://www.kstrom.net/isk/art/basket/bask menu.htmlhttp://www.kstrom.net/isk/art/basket/bask menu.html http://www.californiabaskets.com http://www.cdpr.ca.gov/ http://pesticidereform.org/search.php Fleming, Robert. Natural World of the California Indians. (1983)