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The Orion

Mountain Maidu woven basket gallery displays four generations of local native culture

Mastering+basket+weaving+took+years+for+each+family+member%2C+it+took+not+only+artistic+talent%2C+but+a+mathematical+thought+process+to+understand+where+each+stitch+should+lie+and+how+to+balance+a+pattern+Photo+credit%3A+Melissa+Joseph
Mastering basket weaving took years for each family member, it took not only artistic talent, but a mathematical thought process to understand where each stitch should lie and how to balance a pattern Photo credit: Melissa Joseph

The Valene L. Smith Museum of Anthropology at Chico State has a new exhibit called “Unbroken Traditions.” The installation serves as a reminder of the violent history between Native Americans and Chico’s colonizers.

Chico State sits on land that belonged to the Mechoopda tribe. The campus has acknowledged its transgressive roots and during this exhibit, the museum partnered with the campus tribal liaison as well as other local organizations to broaden the awareness of indigenous injustices.

The exhibit showcased handwoven baskets and accessories from four generations of Mountain Maidu weavers from the Meadows-Baker Family. These handmade baskets symbolize the decades of oppression the Mountain Maidu generations endured.

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The exhibit showcased handwoven baskets and accessories from four generations of Mountain Maidu Weavers of the Meadows-Baker Family. Photo credit: Melissa Joseph

Museum visitors are regaled with the story of Lilly Baker and her ancestors as they read small informational plaques around the installment. The plaques detail how Baker began her life long passion for basket weaving. Lilly’s mother, Daisy Meadows-Baker, learned how to weave baskets from her mother and passed the tradition down to nine-year-old Lilly.

Mastering basket weaving took years for each family member. It involves a combination of artistic talent and mathematical thought processes to understand where each stitch should lie and how to balance a pattern. A wall in the museum reads:

“’I never know what the design will be when I start. It just happens… It is the Maidu in me coming through my fingers.’ – Lilly Baker”

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“I never know what the design will be when I start. It just happens… It is the Maidu in me coming through my fingers. - Lilly Baker” Photo credit: Melissa Joseph

This highlighted quote shows that even with the best techniques and practices, the real trick to basket weaving is having the spirit of her ancestors to guide her inspiration for each piece.

Without the endurance of her predecessors, Baker’s craft and culture would be extinct. “Unbroken Traditions” spotlights this facet of Native American history, recognizing the hardship each tribe has had to bear witness and overcome.

More information about “Unbroken Traditions” can be found on Chico State’s website.

Melissa Joseph can be contacted at [email protected] or on twitter @Melisstweetz

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About the Contributor
Melissa Joseph, Opinion Editor
Melissa Joseph is an avid writer and music listener who has written and illustrated for The Orion for the past four semesters. She is the opinion editor for The Orion, a columnist for the Chico Enterprise Records and an A&E reporter for Tahoe Onstage. She hopes to one day work for a newspaper in a metropolitan area, preferably on the A&E section, so she can go to concerts for free.

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