Weaving, Carla Timentwa, Nez Perce Tribe

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Carla Timentwa: Ta'c meeywii ‘íinim we'níkt wées alaa'weyma. My Indian name belonged to my great, great, great-grandmother and she was married to Wapsheli. So my mother was a full-blooded Nimiipuu and my father was non-Indian and we were raised in a home with seven children in Seattle. We are a part of that relocation program, where they were sending Indians to the cities to learn their skills and to assimilate into the larger culture.

Carla Timentwa: The name that I carry alaa'weyma has been passed on to my granddaughter Josie Héetewit Yearout. So she's carrying that name forward. My grandpa's name, téewis ‘ilp’ílp is being carried forward by James Walker, who is my nephew. So passing on these names is very important because it centers us on who we are, but it also holds us a responsibility to conduct ourselves in a way that is respectful for those names and for that history that we carry with us.

Carla Timentwa: Well, I guess as a young child growing up in Seattle and we were right during that civil rights movement period, when the fishing rights on the Puyallup and the Nisqually were taking place. And we grew up not... We weren't rich, we weren't well off, but we learned how to make things. So I would make these little bracelets or I'd make these little earrings or rings. And I started with those to help sell those, to make money so we could eat. And from there, my grandma, Lucille Moody down here in Lapwai. That was my piláaqa' sister. She taught me about beadwork and she was so patient. I started with a little rosette. She says, can you bead? And she would show me and I'd get my thread so tangled and she'd stop and help me to untangle.

Carla Timentwa: Then I'd keep going. And then I'd watch her because she was a Weaver. She did the corn husk weaving. And so I'd watch her. And I'm just fascinated because it has so many moving parts. It's very intricate to watch and to see someone who has really mastered that technique on how to do that. I guess from there, when I became a young parent, I went to the headstart and kaa áatway Catherine Lot Ramsey. She was teaching weaving for the young parents. And so I took my first class with Catherine Ramsey in addition to my grandma. So historically the material was what was around you? What was in your vicinity? Because we traveled so much, it was the hemp or qémyexp they call it. That's what Kamiah is, hemp, qémyexp that hemp and the dog bane, how you work it.

Carla Timentwa: And even that is a process of being able to work it, to get it to the shape and the size that you want. So it's the hemp and the bear grass. Some people made baskets with the Cedar bark. And so nowadays you see people using like raffia and some people use the cotton string instead of the hemp string. And it's okay. It's okay because our people adapt and our people use what is available. But the main thing is that you are constantly creating. And so making hats for me has been very rewarding because I'm picking up those skills that my grandparents had. But I'm also learning from people today especially my in-laws at Omak, they're master weavers. And I was a little nervous going up to Omak, Nespelem in Omak to learn from them because you know how it is with in-laws. You wonder, are they checking me out?

Carla Timentwa: What's going on here? And I did the best I could. And I have this little basket at this little teeny one I made and I brought it down with me because I wanted to show that even at my age, I'm 64 now. That it's okay to learn something new, that we all can start out with something. So I brought with me a hat. It's my very first corn husk hat I've ever made. And I want to give all the thanks to everyone that's taken the time to show me, to help guide me because it is a process. When you're a Weaver, you make a lot of Weaver friends that help you.

Carla Timentwa: And so this is my first corn husk hat I made. And like most people, when you look at your stuff, you're like, oh, I can see, I didn't do this. I didn't do that. Or I could have tightened this a little. And so I can see that, but I'm still really proud of it. I'm especially proud of this little basket because this is the one I made at Nespelem that got me back into a weaving that I had stepped away for 40 years and finally came back and it was my aunt Tilly, my in-law up there that helped me. And she was watching me because it's really tiny. It's hard to... I think it's easier to do big than it is to do really tiny.

Carla Timentwa: But what she noticed was I wasn't giving up, even though it was kind of lumpy and a little lopsided. And parts of it are bigger. And parts of it are smaller. She's watching, she's oh, you're not giving up. That's good. Because a lot of people, they start and it gets too hard. So they give up. And so I've, I've hung on to this just to remind myself that we all start small. We all start somewhere but it's important to start. And it's important to finish, that you finished what you start. When my aunt Lottie was alive, she spoke to me about her mother and her aunts.

Carla Timentwa: The stories that were shared when Spalding was here and how hard our people were made to work, to support the Spalding. And then the mission and the life. Because there used to be like a saw mill or a mill where they made lumber. And it was the women that had to do a lot of that work. And she remembered that and she remembered how tired, how hard they worked. And my grandmother, she shared with me... She went to Carlisle and she went to school and came back. But she shared with me that a long time ago, when the missions were here, they told our people this is a new way of life. This is a new way to believe. You are becoming new people so you need to give up everything that you hold on to. That is your old ways.

Carla Timentwa: You're becoming civilized and you need to get away from that buckskin dress. Get away from those hats. Get away from those old ways you used to ride a horse. The way you stored your food. It's not good anymore. If you are a Christian, if you are a civilized Indian, then you're going to give all that up and you're going to take it. And you're going to bury it up on the hill. And this is a true story that my grandparents told me that there was missionaries that did that and they would bury them on the hill. And in the evening, the missionary said to go up there, dig those things up and they'd hold on to them. And so that was lost from our people for a long time. And what my husband told me is, you know, are the things we make carry a spirit. And so those spirits would be crying for us. Those things that were taken from us were crying to come home.

Carla Timentwa: And when the Spalding-Allen was available or I wouldn't even say available. When they wanted to take it back to Ohio, that our people saw that, no, you can't take that. Those belong here. They're a part of us. Those things are crying out to us. And so I appreciate the work that Herman Reuben did as the chairman of that committee to ensure that those things were kept here. And I'm so thankful that the tribe would like to rename those, to give them the proper respect that they're a part of us. They're not a part of Spalding-Allen.

Carla Timentwa: That was kind of a sad history for them to be away. And now they're home and now they will be, oh, retain a name that's here for our people for many generations. So other people beyond me can go down there and look at those things and study them the way I'd like to with those hats. To study them and look at how intricate that is, how they tied those things together, and then your hands they learn. And they get that memory into them as you're making them. And that's what I want to pass on to my children was teaching yourself how to teach yourself to make things, himéeqis qé'ci'yew'yew. yóx kálo.

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9 minutes, 34 seconds

Carla Timentwa discusses her weaving techniques and shows examples of her work.

Last updated: June 22, 2021