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Open Access Publications from the University of California

'The Basket is in the Roots, That's Where it Begins'


The renown of Pomo basketry in the ethnographic literature has been based almost exclusively on form, fineness and evenness of stitch, symmetry, design, and, to a lesser extent, technique. Pomo basketweavers, however, have continually stressed that an essential part of learning the art of basketry is learning the art of root collection. One of the biggest complaints about new weavers, Indian and non-Indian alike, is as follows: 'They don't want to learn how to dig and prepare those roots. They can't call themselves weavers until they learn how to do that.' This paper maintains that the cultivation of basketry roots is a significant factor in the superior reputation of Pomo baskets. According to a celebrated Dry Creek weaver, 'the basket is in the roots, that's where it begins' (Fig. 1). Consequently, we explore here the processes of basket sedge collection (i.e., cultivation) that the Pomo practice. We also include the characteristics and qualities that weavers use in assessing sedge roots and comment on sedge root exchange and value.

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