Basketweavers Market is a Tahoe City autumn tradition
Long before celebrity-endorsed cookware graced stove tops and ovens, the Native Americans of Northern California and Nevada cooked with baskets.
Both tightly coiled and loosely twined, the baskets were also used in almost every aspect of living for thousands of years.
Celebrating the continuance of craft, the eighth annual Native American Basketweavers’ Market is Saturday, Sept. 24.
The free event begins at 11 a.m. at Tahoe City’s Layton Park where the Gatekeepers Museum is located.
Both Native Americans and those who are not will be present to demonstrate their skills and sell their wares. In addition, according to the museum’s coordinator Javier Rodriguez, the basket weaving artisans are both male and female.
Among those returning are Rebecca Eagle, a Washoe from Nevada and Bryan Klyne a member of the Cree Nation – one of the largest First Nations tribes in Canada.
Jennifer Bates is a Miwok who has trekked from Tuolumne County to Tahoe City for more than five years. Along with her sister, Kimberly Stevenot, the two teach others what generations of their grandmothers, great aunts and mother taught them.
Using willow, red bud, fern, pine needles and bull pine sapling trees, they are able to fashion baskets for many uses.
Important uses include the annual autumnal gathering of acorns and the laborious task of turning the hard nuts into flour.
Starting in late September the first dropping occurs with the green nuts. A month later the nuts have ripened. Even after harvesting, an additional six months is required to completely dry out the acorns. Then a red skin, similar in looks only, to one that surrounds a peanut must be removed before the acorns are ground. Following water leaching to release dangerous tannins the flour is ready for bread making and other culinary uses.
Bates and Stevenot’s repeat demonstration of “Nuts to Soup” allow event participates to experience the process without the wait.
What fascinates most observers says Bates is the woven vessels.
“They are very surprised baskets can hold water and that we can place hot rocks in them to cook with,” he said.
Native American baskets are favorite items for collectors.
Aficionados can gain an expert’s opinion as two appraisers, John Rauzy of Folsom and South Lake Tahoe’s Jerome Evans will be offering their advice at the event for fees either by the piece, or to a maximum of three.
The Gatekeeper’s Museum’s Marion Steinbach collection of Native American baskets is acclaimed around the world. Dat-so-la-lee, of Sheridan Nevada who created more than 300 baskets from the 19th and early 20th century, is a mainstay of the collection.
During the festival the museum is offering a reduced admission to encourage both devotees and new enthusiasts to see the proud history that inspires the basket weavers outside.