Sharing Traditions Exhibit in Yosemite Showcases 80 Years of Native Basketry Demonstrators and Art
and the stories of the artists who created them
A 36 inch-wide basket that took three years to hand weave, restored film footage of American Indian history in the 1920s and an oral history of native cultural demonstrators are among the items showcased in Sharing Traditions, a new exhibit at the Yosemite Museum celebrating the 80-year history of Yosemite National Park’s basket-weaving demonstrators and their role in conveying American Indian culture to the public.
The nonprofit Yosemite Conservancy provided $100,000 to create the exhibit. “Contributions from our donors enable us to preserve the park’s cultural history and enhance the visitor experience,” said Mike Tollefson, president of Yosemite Conservancy. The exhibit is free and open to the public from June 4-October 31, 2013.
“Sharing Traditions depicts the history of weaving demonstrators in the park from 1929 to the present, examining their critical role as American Indian liaisons to the public and giving visitors the opportunity to connect to the region’s culture,” said Don Neubacher, Superintendent of Yosemite National Park.
Sharing Traditions is told primarily through three women — Maggie Howard (1870-1947), Lucy Telles (1885-1955) and Julia Parker — all of whom have worked in Yosemite National Park and created countless baskets currently housed in the museum’s collection. Parker, 84, is the park’s longest-serving current employee and has dedicated her life to ensuring American Indian culture and basket-weaving skills passed down from her elders continue to flourish. “What these women did is a story that should be heard because of the artistic ability they had,” she said.
Telles’ 36 inch-wide basket made from roots, redbud and willow is the largest known to have been woven from the Yosemite region and was exhibited at the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco in 1939. One of Howard’s cradlebaskets on display was made in 1938 for the daughter of a Yosemite Ranger with a rag doll inside trimmed with Howard’s own hair. Parker’s baskets have been on display at the Smithsonian Institution and are in the Queen of England’s collection.
Since 1960, Parker has been sharing Yosemite’s cultural history with visitors and demonstrating basket-weaving techniques at the Yosemite Museum. “When visitors leave I want them to have a better understanding about the baskets and about the plants we have in Yosemite,” she said. “Then they’ll have more caring and more love for the Valley that has protected these plants for us.”
Audio and video materials will convey a greater depth of Yosemite’s cultural diversity. Visitors will see archived film footage and photographs of the weavers, and hear an oral history by Parker describing the work of Howard and Telles and the changes in appreciation of American Indian basketry.
Through the support of donors, Yosemite Conservancy provides grants and support to Yosemite National Park to help preserve and protect Yosemite today and for future generations. The work funded by Yosemite Conservancy is visible throughout the park, from trail rehabilitation to wildlife protection and habitat restoration. The Conservancy is dedicated to enhancing the visitor experience and providing a deeper connection to the park through outdoor programs, volunteering and wilderness services. Thanks to dedicated supporters, the Conservancy has provided more than $75 million in grants to Yosemite National Park. Learn more at yosemiteconservancy.org or call 1-800-469-7275.
Did You Know?
The indigenous people of Yosemite Valley have used fire as a tool for thousands of years. Fire was used to encourage the growth of plants used for basket making and to promote the growth of the black oak--a sun loving species--and a staple food source for American Indians from this region.