California Indian Basketweavers Association
Basket weaving is the most prolific and best known traditional Indian art in California. Starting in the late 19th century and continuing throughout the 20th century, collectors sought baskets woven by California Indians. Prices for particularly fine or large baskets soared to the thousands of dollars.
Meanwhile, in the daily lives of California Indians, baskets had been replaced by metal and plastic tools, and by the late 1980s the art of weaving appeared to be at risk of dying out. “There were tribes that no longer had practicing basketweavers, and many others that only had one or two, or a small handful,” said Sara Greensfelder, one of the original founders of the California Indian Basketweavers Association. Few younger weavers were learning to weave, and the mostly older women who continued to weave were finding it increasingly difficult to carry on their work. The demands of family life and the struggle to make a living, together with the destruction of plant habitats, pesticide contamination of gathering areas, and difficulty of obtaining access to gathering sites, were reducing the time and opportunity for plant tending, gathering, and basket weaving.
Following a statewide gathering of weavers, museums, public land agencies, ethno botanists, and funders, a council formed in 1991 with the goal of supporting weavers and addressing the problems of access to materials. The following year this council formed the nonprofit California Indian Basketweavers Association (CIBA). Based in Woodland, CIBA’s goal is to preserve, promote, and perpetuate California Indian basket weaving traditions while providing a healthy physical, social, spiritual, and economic environment for basketweavers.
Membership is open to weavers and non weavers alike, as well as to non-Indian supporters of California Indian basket weaving. The organization publishes a quarterly newsletter and sponsors an annual Gathering where weavers demonstrate and sell their work, share techniques and stories, buy materials, and generally support each other. With each gathering, the network of weavers and their supporters grows, enabling the continuation of the art and its passage to the next generation.
CIBA also works with local, state, and federal agencies and lawmakers to increase access to gathering areas, reintroduce traditional resources to particular sites, limit the use of harmful pesticides, and raise awareness for weavers and Native California cultures. Since the formation of CIBA the number of California Indian basket weavers has substantially increased, including the number of basket weavers earning income from selling baskets, teaching, or demonstrating their art. In part due to CIBA's efforts, California basketry traditions are on a more secure footing and will continue into the foreseeable future.
Read CIBA's Vision Statement...