Northern Sierra Mewuk Basketry
When I started to weave, it brought out something special in what I was doing. It was a meant-to-be moment.” – Jennifer Bates
Jennifer Bates (Northern Sierra Mewuk) has been a basketmaker for over four decades. When she was seventeen, she began learning traditional Mewuk basketry by studying with family members and tribal elders, including Julia Parker, Mable McKay, Dorothy Stanley, and Craig Bates. Jennifer was a founding board member of the California Indian Basketweavers’ Association (CIBA), of which she was also chairperson for the first thirteen years. She resides on the Tuolumne Rancheria, where she continues to teach basketry, from traditional methods of gathering and processing raw materials to weaving techniques. At the same time, Jennifer is well recognized for demonstrating acorn processing, specifically making traditional acorn soup (nupa), cooking in traditional baskets, and using hot rocks.
During this apprenticeship, Jennifer will instruct Jeanette Innerarity (Ione Band of Miwok) in identifying and collecting their native plant materials, as well as in techniques for splitting, cleaning and storing the materials to prepare them for use. Jeanette will create and complete a basket by June 2024, to be entered in the CIBA’s Basketry Showcase.
In 2017, Jennifer mentored Daveen Williams in making a het-ta-lu (a Mewuk sifting basket). Bates and Williams spent much time gathering and processing the plant material for constructing the basket.
During their apprenticeship, Jennifer taught Jeri Scrambler how to make a traditional het-ta-lu tray, which is used to sift pounded acorn into flour. The lessons covered the entire weaving process from beginning to end, including gathering and processing sedge root, red bud, and deer grass.
Master Mewuk basketweaver Jennifer Bates harvesting native raw weaving materials. Photo: Courtesy of the artist.
A het-ta-lu basket created by master Mewuk basketweaver Jennifer Bates. Photo: A. Moss.
Master Mewuk basketweaver at the second annual CIBA gathering, circa 1992. Photo: Courtesy of the artist.
Master artist Jennifer Bates holds one of her traditional Mewuk het-ta-lu baskets, and demonstrates its use for sifting pounded acorns into flour. Photo: T. Howell