The California Indian Basketweavers Association:A Native agency for change and cultural continuity

Catherine Louise Cardozo
Native American Studies, University of California, Davis
July, 2005


Continuing the cultural tradition of basketweaving was becoming increasingly difficult for California Indian basketweavers by the end of the 1980s. Inspired by the first statewide gathering of weavers in 1991, they formed the California Indian Basketweavers Association in 1992 to address the challenges they were facing. Never before had weavers come together as a statewide, unified group to address the difficulties they were experiencing in continuing this ancient tradition. CIBA was the first statewide organization in the country to provide basketweavers with their own cultural and political support system.
This work examines how CIBA fits into the historical context of California Indian peoples in general, with a focus on weavers' adaptability to changing conditions in particular. How and why CIBA was formed and the people involved are addressed. CIBA's cultural activities that have provided support and inspiration to master weavers and basketry students are discussed, as is its influence on the formation of local basketweaving groups within California and around the country.
While basketweaving was once integral to California Indians' daily lives and necessary for their physical survival, weaving today for many is a means of cultural survival. CIBA's influence on a growing number of young and old California Indian women and men to once more or to continue to practice basketweaving is addressed. This work demonstrates how CIBA's purpose to facilitate the practice of basketweaving has proven to be a source of resistance to forces working against its continuation. This work also examines CIBA's multiple strategies for working with and educating public land management agencies about the needs and concerns of traditional basketweavers. This includes the need for access and practicing traditional land management techniques such as controlled burns of basketry plants, and weavers' concern with their potential exposure to herbicides when gathering materials from nature. Having been dispossessed of the majority of their ancestral lands, many weavers now depend on public lands as a source for basketry plants. How CIBA has influenced public policy related to Native American gathering and plant management, and its stand against the use of herbicides as an example of Native sovereignty are explored.