Sweet Success

Indigenous Basketweavers

Published in: GIA Newsletter, Vol 10, No 2 (Fall 1999)

Marina Drummer

An extraordinary and remarkable cultural event occurred this past June at the Rancho San Rafael Park in Reno, Nevada. The Western Regional Indigenous Basketweavers Gathering brought together over 500 weavers representing the nine western states, including Alaska and Hawaii for three days of demonstrations, lectures, workshops, and just a generally fine time. A pervasive air of cooperation, collaboration, and good will made for joyous celebration of the giant strides these basketweavers had made over the past several years.

A stunning array of baskets represented the rich diversity of tribes and cultural traditions. The conference was brilliantly organized under the capable leadership of California Indian Basketweavers and was truly an exaltation of one of the more successful cultural revivals of our time. The site, a lovely and large park surrounded by snow capped mountains was ideal for enjoying, at a leisurely pace, the many things being offered.

The basketweavers showcase in the small museum was, miraculously, installed in less than one day. Kudos to the installers who made the most of the space to display a wealth of styles, shapes, and sizes of baskets, as well as contextual material and clear labeling. The demonstration tables were absolutely fascinating as various natural materials were soaked and stripped, dyed, and coated and woven in different fashions according to different traditions and innovations.

Most moving were the Native panelists who shared from their hearts the challenges and rewards of keeping this tradition alive while living in the 20th Century. In poignant and impassioned terms, they repeated the theme of the necessity of keeping ties to the earth, personal relationships with plants and seasons, and expressing gratitude for what the earth offers them to work with in order to maintain balance. The basketweavers clearly learned a great deal from each other and those in attendance were honored to witness the sweet sincerity of their work and the success that has come from that sincerity.