Conversations with Kathy remembered…

November 4, 2020

Drawing of a basket bottom with basket maker’s signature by Meredith Eliassen

I will never forget my conversations in March 2011 with Kathy Wallace (Karuk, Yurok, member of Hoopa Valley Tribe), who taught basket weaving in San Francisco State University’s American Indian Studies Department. Kathy elevated my consciousness when she told me how baskets could be made to honor loved ones and to serve practical functions. Basket makers could take years to gather materials with which to engineer a single basket immersed in tribal tradition, to honor elders and children who are the next generation and our collective future. Materials for baskets come from the spirit world to serve a needed function and when that function is served the material is returned to the spirit world. California Indian baskets change with the times to suit the need at hand; they never pass into extinction, but they may scatter to the winds like acorns carried to distant lands by birds. Baskets reflect a consciousness of man’s relationship within a spiritual universe in which nature is a “being” and humans are part of that greater being. I reflect on Kathy’s message now; it calms me in this unusual time.

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