Eco-Cultural Revitalization in Southern California Indian Basketry: Lecture/Demo
On Tuesday, September 21, 2010 at 12 pm in Clarke 113 at CSUSM, two basket weavers came to lecture about basket weaving. Rose Ramirez and Lydia Vassar showed contemporary and traditional basketry techniques. They talked about their cultural practices, and they discussed how important it was to revitalize their traditions. A storyteller, Cathleen Chilcote Wallace, opened with a traditional story passed down from her ancestors. There was a significant moment during the lecture, the story that I will remember, an inspirational moment, and my overall reaction to this lecture.
What was significant to me was their discussion of how much work it takes to basket weave. I had no idea how long it took to make one basket. Thinking simple-mindedly, I thought you just take some grass and intertwine them into a basket. I thought it’d take maybe a few days to a week at most, depending on the size of the basket. When they explained that basket weaving begins with the actual gathering of materials to dyeing it, etc., I looked at it from a different perspective. They continued to explain that some materials only harvest for ten days! I also learned that one of the materials most used is juncus, and in Cathleen’s story, the girl was on a mission to find juncus.
A year from now, I think I will still remember the story Cathleen told during the lecture. It was called, “The Gift Basket” and was about a girl who wanted to make a gift basket for her grandmother. She wanted to keep it a secret from her grandmother and went to gather the materials needed. When she went to gather the juncus, she realized it was gone. The animals of the land helped her retrieve it by leading her to an island. However, the juncus could only be picked when there was a low tide and by the kind, generous hearts. The girl was able to gather the juncus, and she made sure she took just enough for her one basket. When she arrived back to town, everyone surrounded her because they were worried, but the grandma just gave her a nod and smiled. From then on, the animals guided her, and the girl tells the story to others. Not only did I think it was a good way to start off the lecture, but I believe stories are a good way to teach lessons to people. It inspired me to want to teach my future students through the art of storytelling; I was also inspired by the basket weavers’ hard work and dedication.
While all three ladies are an inspiration, I was really inspired by the basket weavers’ passion. They work so hard to preserve their culture and tradition, and they are so humble. Lydia’s passion for teaching the Native children on the Pechanga Reservation is inspiring because I want to be a teacher as well. She does something she loves to do, and she can pass that on to younger generations. It is inspiring to see the two ladies doing something they love and putting that skill and passion to use. This was a definite eye-opener to basket weaving.
Overall, I was very glad I attended this lecture. It was not only educational, but I learned a great deal about Native culture, how the need to preserve their culture is important, and how much work it takes to weave baskets. It was interesting to me because I learned about different types of plants, what they can be used for, and how they can be used for several different purposes besides basket weaving. I am grateful to have met them, and I hope to make a basket of my own someday.