Weaving a tale of basketry in Clallam history series
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Arwyn Rice/Peninsula Daily News
Jamie Valadez and Jacilee Wray, from left, display several woven items from Olympic Peninsula tribal weavers, including mats, a hat, baskets, and materials used for weaving, at Sunday’s Clallam County Historical Society’s History Tales lecture series in Port Angeles.

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT ANGELES — For millenniums, the tribes of the Olympic Peninsula have been sharing and trading basketry styles and weaving techniques — and that tradition continues to this day.

So said Jamie Valadez, a Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe member who was speaking on the subject as part of the Clallam County Historical Society's History Tales lecture series Sunday.

Jacilee Wray, National Park Service anthropologist and author of the book From the Hands of a Weaver: Olympic Peninsula Basketry through Time, and Valadez were at the First United Methodist and Congregational Church to discuss traditional basketry.

About 30 people attended the lecture, many of whom purchased or brought their own copies of the book for Wray to sign.

Wray and Valadez displayed photos of open-weave baskets for harvesting clams, watertight coil baskets, folding woven basket-packs, hats, mats and many other items that could be woven.

Materials used to create the baskets included cedar bark, bear grass and sweet grass and even tree roots.

Klallam, Twana, Quinault, Quileute, Hoh, and Makah all had nearly interchangeable styles of basketry, Wray said.

Trade and intermarriage likely were how various methods of weaving were exchanged, she said.

At an ancient village site near Lake Ozette, small samples of baskets were discovered, preserved in wet, airless mud, which archaeologists believe were samples of a basket weaving technique that were distributed among the tribes, Wray said.

The Ozette Site dates back as far as 2,000 years, and was abandoned 300 years ago after a mudslide overtook the village.

Of the Peninsula tribes, the only truly unique basketry technique was found among the Skokomish, which frequently featured a dog motif, while rest of the tribes, those of the coast, often used whale motifs, Wray said.

Valadez, a Klallam language and history teacher at Port Angeles High School, learned simple basket-weaving in the 1990s, and teaches those methods to children, she said.

The ties between weavers remain strong, Valadez said.

“Weavers still have intertribal meetings once a month,” she said.

Valadez's sister, Vicki Trudeau, an Elwha member who lives in Quinault, is a master weaver, she said.

Coil baskets were nearly forgotten for a time, Valadez said, but the popularity of the style is returning.

Wray added that simply getting materials for weaving is becoming a challenge.

Many of the grasses have been overharvested and difficult to find, she said.

Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 03. 2013 6:17PM
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