Margaret Lee Peters
From time immemorial, infants of the Yurok, Karuk, and Hoopa tribes of modern-day Humboldt County begin life in a traditional baby basekt woven of hazel sticks and spruce roots. Baby baskets provide a safe place, where infants can be swaddled and tied in with leather straps, proving security and comfort reminiscent of their mother’s womb. The construction of a baby basket requires specifically sized hazel sticks, gathered only in the spring, and spruce roots “broken down” into ribbon-like strips, gathered typically in the wetter seasons when the ground is softer. A single basket requires 250-350 sticks, depending on size, and 25-35 feet of 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch spruce roots. Material preparation is just as challenging as weaving and requires a lot of practice and dedication in order to get the amount of materials necessary to weave a single basket.
Margaret Lee Peters (Yurok) grew up in a large extended family, and was taken as a young child by her aunts and grandmother on trips to gather raw materials for baskets. Becoming a dedicated weaver at the age of 20, Margaret learned to weave under Wilverna Reece of Happy Camp, California. After moving to Willow Creek, California, at the age of 27, Margaret connected with her aunt Susan Burdick, and began teaching weaving classes in her home. Susan taught Margaret the art of interpretting a basket’s construction to understand technique’s used in its making. Margarat made her first baby basket in 2006, and has completed over 30 since.
Margaret was a master artist in ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program in 2014, working with her cousin and apprentice Kristen Rose Raymond. Margaret guided Kristen in the entire process of constructing of a baby basket, from gathering and preparing raw materials to weaving techniques.
In 2018, master basket weaver Margaret Peters (2014; Yurok) returned to the program to deepen the knowledge of her apprentice Nelia Marshall (Hupa) in the Yurok, Karuk, and Hoopa cultural practice of making traditional baby baskets.