Basketry workshops bring together communities

December 4, 2017
Bill Holm Center

Sara Siestreem, contemporary Indigenous artist and traditional Hanis Coos weaver, is a 2016–17 Bill Holm Center (BHC) grantee who leads monthly weaving workshops in Coos Bay, Oregon, with members of the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Tribes.

She recently invited the BHC outreach team to bring museum objects and share object-handling knowledge and best practices at a two-day basketry workshop. 

Sara Siestreem taking care of basketry objects in the CTCLUSI collections.

Sara Siestreem taking care of basketry objects in the CTCLUSI collections.
Photo: Burke Museum

Tribal employees cleaning basketry objects

Delia Gomez (Yaqui/Mexican), Jesse Beers (Siuslaw), Haliehana Stepetin (Unangax), and CTCLUSI Tribal employees in the background cleaning tribal basketry objects.
Photo: Sara Siestreem

To inspire participants and generate knowledge, Sara identified 13 southern Oregon baskets from the Burke collections for the BHC outreach team to bring to the workshop. The baskets exemplified various techniques and styles from a range of communities, including Clackamas, Grand Ronde, Hanis Coos, Klamath, Klickitat, Siletz, and Umpqua.

On the first day of the workshop, Haliehana Stepetin, BHC regional outreach coordinator, taught Sara and four tribal employees how to clean, handle, and store their basketry items based on techniques used by Burke collections staff. 

Artists and researchers gather together for the basketry workshop

Justin McCarthy (Yup'ik), Megan Medina (Miluk Coos), Amanda Craig (Hanis Coos), Earla Kirk (Hanis Coos), Courtney Krossman (Miluk Coos), Carolyn Slyter (Hanis Coos), Scott Slyter (Hanis Coos), and Annette Pierre (Kalispel). Photo: Sara Siestreem

On the second day, Sara led a basketry weaving workshop with 10 community member participants. Sara has been leading basketry workshops that incorporate gathering and processing methods to basket construction since 2014.

Sara is wholeheartedly invested in the transmission of cultural knowledge for future generations of Indigenous weavers.

“My plan is based in sustainability. Because it is too risky for one person to hold all the knowledge, I teach my students that they are taking on this tradition as culture bearers to help bring our people into the future.”

—Sara Siestreem

BHC Collections Outreach Coordinator, Justin McCarthy (Yup'ik) and Megan Medina's (Miluk Coos) daughter.

BHC Collections Outreach Coordinator, Justin McCarthy (Yup'ik) and Megan Medina's (Miluk Coos) daughter.
Photo: Sara Siestreem

This workshop has paved the path for a relationship of sharing between the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw and the Burke Museum—allowing the opportunity to strengthen ties with the community and more importantly, to take part in and support the perseverance of this sacred practice. 

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