About 1,000 people are expected to attend the Northwest Native American Basketweavers Association’s gathering Friday and Saturday at Squaxin Island’s Skookum Creek Events Center
And in addition to soaking up advice from master weavers and having an opportunity to shop for one-of-a-kind gifts, they’ll get a chance to view a brand-new traveling exhibit that was the culminating project for students in Northwest Indian College’s Tribal Museum Studies Program.
About 10 students — hailing from Squaxin Island, Lummi, Puyallup and Grand Ronde, Ore. tribes, — took the course which was taught by a team from the Squaxin Island Museum Library and Research Center.
Thanks to the magic of video and technology, the class met for three hours every Friday during spring quarter, and focused on developing basketry exhibits with an emphasis on “STEAM,” which stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, according to Dale Croes, who was one of the instructors.
The final project of the 300-level course was to help create an exhibit for the gathering.
The class covered exhibit design, labels, basketry design and an examination of an ancient basket found at an archeological site in South Sound, according to instructor Charlene Krise, who is the executive director of the Squaxin Island Museum. Students also learned basic basketweaving techniques, and information on traditional dyes such as Oregon grape roots and alder bark. Croes said one of the most talked about sessions was when the class checked out basketry material through a microscope.
“There’s a lot you can see at the cellular level that show the strength, resilience and flexibility of the materials,” said instructor Kathleen Hawes, who is assistant director of Pacific Northwest Archeology Services.
Students began assembling the exhibit on Thursday afternoon. Its backdrop was made up of 10 seven-and-a-half-foot-tall panels featuring basket designs that were photographed and enlarged.
Student Connie McCloud of the Puyallup reservation brought several items to incorporate into the display including sweet grass, dyed bear grass and a basket that she had commissioned to commemorate her 20th year participating in the Canoe Journey.
McCloud, who is Puyallup, Nisqually and Chehalis, recalled some of her earliest memories about baskets. One of them included jumping on a bed to try to touch weaving materials that her grandma used to hang from the rafters.
“A lot of our weaving reflects family,” she said.
For McCloud, the exhibit’s message is that tribal people are still teaching and learning.
“That our culture is still alive,” McCloud said. “It’s practiced.”