California Indian Basketweavers Association
Jennifer Kalt - Resource Protection Associate, Northwestern Field Office, Willow Creek

The California Indian Basketweavers Association (CIBA) is a non-profit organization that works toward preserving native plants and their habitats. One of our missions is the conservation of plants used for basketweaving, medicinal, and subsistence purposes. We also focus on various issues facing the people who use these plants.

CIBA’s Northwestern Field Office in Willow Creek serves over 250 basketweavers from Humboldt, Del Norte, Trinity, and Siskiyou Counties. This region encompasses the aboriginal territories of 12 California Indian tribes and has the highest density of traditional basketweavers of any region in the state. CIBA, a non-profit organization based in Nevada City, has worked to preserve, promote, and perpetuate California Indian basketweaving traditions since 1991.

CIBA’s activities include development of cooperative agreements with land managers to promote traditional management practices; holding gatherings to encourage experienced weavers to pass on their knowledge, ensuring access to basket materials; and documentation of herbicide use, which we also work to reduce. Future plans include a native plant garden showcasing the plants used for basket materials, as well as plants used traditionally for food and medicine.

Important basketweaving plants in our region include willow, hazel, spruce, chain fern, five-finger fern, and beargrass. Many of these plants have become less available to basketweavers due to lack of access to traditional collecting sites, herbicide contamination, and fire suppression. Frequent, low-intensity fires encourage plants like hazel to produce the long, unbranched, even shoots required for making the beautiful baskets for which weavers of our region are famous. Regular burning of beargrass produces the soft, flexible leaves preferred by weavers. The fire suppression policies of the last 150 years have led to a decrease in these materials as well as the dangerously high forest fuel loads that the U.S. Forest Service is now trying to reverse. Herbicide contamination threatens the health of basketweavers and their children and elders who often accompany them on collecting trips. Studies have shown that residues from such herbicides as 2,4-D, glyphosphate, and triclopyr (Garlon) remain in plant materials for 1 year or more. Forestry herbicides, used after clearcutting to eliminate tan-oak, alder, and other "non-crop" species, threaten the health of many residents of our communities through contamination of drinking water. Aerial spraying on private timberlands continues to be permitted in areas adjacent to residents of the Yurok Reservation and many other rural people, many of whom use wells, springs, or creeks for drinking water. Even the community water districts that provide drinking water to Arcata and Eureka are in watersheds that are subject to these toxic chemicals. Over 40,000 acres were sprayed in Humboldt County from 1998-2000. CIBA’s Northwestern Field Office is currently working on a Pesticide Issues Study for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

If you would like to help promote CIBA’s goals and receive monthly newsletters, please visit CIBA’s website at http://www.ciba.org or call the Northwestern Field Office at (530) 629-4567.

Some Culturally Important Local Native Plants
Basketweaving
    Corylus cornuta var. californica    hazel			
    Xerophyllum tenax                   beargrass
    Salix spp.                          willows
    Adiantum aleuticum                  five-finger fern
    Woodwardia fimbriata                chain fern
    Carex spp.                          sedges
    Sequoia sempervirens                coast redwood
    Picea sitchensis                    Sitka spruce
 
Medicinal Uses
    Ledum glandulosum                   Labrador tea
    Angelica spp.                       Indian root
    Arbutus menziesii                   madrone
    Rhamnus purshianus                  cascara
    Asarum caudatum                     wild ginger
 
Subsistence
    Lithocarpus densiflora              tanoak
    Vaccinium ovatum                    evergreen huckleberry
    Pinus sabiniana                     gray pine
    Allium spp.                         wild onion
    Ribes spp.                          gooseberries and currants
 
Many other plants are used for ceremonial and utilitarian purposes.

Further reading:
  • Yurok-Karok Basket Weavers, by Lila M. O’Neale
  • Before the Wilderness: Environmental Management by Native Californians, ed. by Thomas C. Blackburn and Kat Anderson
  • The Fine Art of California Indian Basketry, by Brian Bibby
  • News from Native California (a quarterly magazine) http://www.heydaybooks.com/news/

North Coast Chapter of the California Native Plant Society  3-19-2001    HOME