Council for Museum Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
The relationship between Karuk Tribe weavers and the baskets that they bring into being is woven within the very roots from which they are made. This relationship is a part of who we are, entwined with our past, present, and future. Therefore, Karuk baskets are to be treated with respect, honoring the baskets’ paths in the world. As both an anthropologist and traditional basket weaver, I engage with a holistic research practice, grounded in indigenous methodologies, to recall and call out this relationship and the liveliness of Karuk basketry held in museum collections. Through archival and museum collection research, as well as interviews and my own practice, I show that Karuk baskets speak their own stories, which are much more complex than the physical properties of type, design, and use. Following Barad, my research thinks through the agency of belongings as an enactment, considering the inseparability of mattering from the material and the individual. To illustrate this, I trace the routes and roots of a sipnúk'anamahach (small trinket basket) made by a Karuk elder prior to 1928 that is currently in the collection facility of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. I consider the routes in which this sipnúk'anamahach traveled from its home in northern California, revealing a story of knowledge gained and knowledge erased. Additionally, I follow the roots from which the sipnúk'anamahach was made to illuminate how Karuk baskets encompass the very living composition—material, environmental, linguistic, social, political, and cultural— from which it is woven.