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Washoe family to display baskets at special event

by Laurie Hickey

Baskets made by a family of great Washoe basketweavers will be on display Candy Dance weekend at Laura Springs Ranch and Antiques.

The Smokey family will be sharing some of their family’s magnificent baskets, representing several generations and made by Winnie Christensen, Lorrina Burns, Florine Conway, Elsie George, Nina George, Mendy Smokey, Sadie Joe Smokey the elder, Lucille Smokey, Joanne Smokey Martinez and Theresa Smokey Jackson.

The Smokey family has worked hard to keep their Washoe culture and the art of Washoe basketweaving alive. Family members will demonstrate other aspects of the Washoe culture and share family memorabilia at the special event.

Sue Smokey Coleman will demonstrate weaving and making traditional Washoe willow baskets. She recently took part in an Indian arts festival where she took first place in three divisions.

Coleman’s mother, Theresa Smokey Jackson, a master basketweaver who recently passed away, gave her daughter the inspiration and the love of the art of Washoe basketweaving and the desire to carry on the tradition.

Cynthia Smokey Foster will demonstrate the making of non-traditional pine needle and willow baskets. Foster also took part in the arts festival, and she couldn’t finish her pine needle baskets fast enough for those who wanted to purchase them. While living in Chicago, she taught basketweaving classes. She was also a runnerup for Miss Indian Nevada.

Foster’s mother Lucille Smokey, another of the elder generation of weavers who have had so much to do with perpetuating the art, passed away recently.

Coleman and Foster are members of The Great Basin Native Basketweavers Association and are creating interest by teaching and promoting all forms of Native American basketweaving throughout the West.

They feel it is vital to teach the Washoe art of basketweaving. Washoes are few in number – probably a little over 1,500 people in all.

The two women’s cousin, Norrine Smokey, a former Miss Washoe and two-time Miss Indian Nevada, will try to be on hand for the event. Smokey has a master’s degree in education and lives and teaches in Portland, Ore. She serves as a non-reservation representative on the Washoe Tribal Council.

Master basketweavers Joanne Smokey Martinez and her sister, Theresa, not only enriched their family by teaching them the art of Washoe basketweaving, but were willing to share this art with others by giving demonstrations at schools and museums.

They traveled west to Hawaii and east to Washington, D.C., where they were invited to the Smithsonian to demonstrate.

The art and culture of the Washoe people would be lost if not for families like the Smokeys who have realized the importance of their Washoe culture and have passed it down from generation to generation.

Coleman and Foster will have baskets for sale at the gathering. This is an opportunity to purchase baskets made by the next generation of great Washoe basketweavers.

Indian tacos, though not traditional Washoe food, will be for sale and prepared by other members of the family, Audriana and Stefan Rodriguez and Kasandra Dove. The Indian fry bread makes the difference for these tacos.

Also to be featured will be locally made and handcrafted Tahoe log art lodgepole pine furniture and Carson Valley willow furniture, plus beautifully made Napa Valley grapevine baskets, along with a new shipment of antiques.

Candy Dance weekend is Sept. 23 and 24. The basket weavers will be at Laura Springs Ranch and Antiques from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. both days. The ranch is located at 1456 Foothill Road, approximately 4 miles south of Genoa.

For more information, call 782-2893.

n Laurie Hickey helps coordinate various events in the Genoa area, including the Genoa Renaissance Faire.

cynthia on the left and sue on the right