Native Village
Youth and Education news
Volume 2 December, 2011
 Students learn to preserve Native American baskets
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Students from Noli Indian School and theSoboba Cultural Center are working together on a unique project. The students are helping archive a 50-piece Native American basket collection and update the current catalogue.

"They get a good overview of what it entails to curate and preserve baskets," said Carrie Garcia, cultural program manager for the Soboba Band of Luiseņo Indians.  "They complete assessment and condition reports.  It is broadening their horizons and giving them practical experience."

Garcia said this project gives the youth a remarkable perspective.

"Not everybody gets to see the collection or even hold the baskets," she said.

The students are members of Tashina Miranda Ornelas' culture class. Ornelas teaches them how to weave baskets, from gathering materials to conserving their finished products. 

"Being part of this project is actually teaching me about my culture," said Kahlan Torro, of the Torres Martinez tribe.  "Not many Indians in my area made baskets.  I can see the time it takes to make baskets that come out looking like these."

"I like seeing all the different kinds of materials and designs used and knowing these baskets are really old," said Angel Herrera, 16, a Soboba tribal member.

Christian Ramirez's Soboba family has about 40 baskets. He hopes to document the family collection and share preservation tips. "This experience is great," said Christian, 17.  "I learned to keep (baskets) away from light so they don't fade and keep them in a place where they won't be touched a lot."

Garcia said some interns examine the baskets from a historical standpoint. Others are interested in the intricate weavings and handiwork.  

"That's what I like to see" she said. "As a weaver myself, I can realize what skill these weavers had to produce these beautiful baskets. I have an appreciation of knowing what it takes to get that great."

During the past two years, 10 baskets from Southern California tribes have been added to the Soboba collection.

"Baskets are a teaching tool.  They are our teachers, passed down from generation to generation," she said.  "I like bringing out a new one and watching the expression on the students' faces.  They always say they didn't think it could get any better than the last one they saw."

A condition assessment report includes detailed written descriptions, measurements, and sketches of each basket.  Students then take photographs and attach to their paperwork. Their work will be added to the tribal database.

"They can take pride in that and not take this opportunity for granted," Garcia said.  "They know what they are doing is going to be helpful to other people.  If we ever lose the information on our database, we will refer back to their handwritten copies."

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