TULSA – Cherokee National Treasure Vivian Garner Cottrell will demonstrate how Cherokee people gather and process river cane to make baskets at noon on Feb. 23. The free presentation will be a virtual event broadcast using Facebook Live.

Gilcrease Museum is hosting the event and the program is sponsored in part by the Cherokee Nation. This project is also supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Cottrell credits her mother, Betty Scraper Garner, for teaching her how to make Cherokee baskets the way they were made in ancient times. Her mother, who was named a Cherokee National Treasure in 1993 for basketry, taught her how to make baskets using white oak splits and honeysuckle and buck brush “runners” or reed.

“We would sell our baskets to area gifts shops in Tahlequah and the surrounding counties. Most shops would purchase each basket by size and whether the basket had a lid or not. In the 70s, I was paid $5 to $20 for each basket. I tried to weave and sell as many baskets as I could during high school,” Cottrell said.  

She said that from the late 1970s into the mid-1990s she and her mother weaved baskets using honeysuckle and buck brush and stopped using commercial materials. They also gathered natural dye materials to color their baskets.

“My dad had closed in our garage so that we could weave, display and sell our baskets to tourists and others. We sold our baskets from our home for many years,” she said.

Cottrell was honored as a Cherokee National Treasure for basketry in 1995, and her mother was in attendance to see her receive this acknowledgement from their peers.

“We learned from each other. She and other weavers had encouraged me to develop my own weaving style. When attending national Indian art markets, I am honored to represent Cherokee basketry and share knowledge of our weaving style to the general public,” she said. “Mom and I would weave together for 25 years until her death in June 1997. I pay much tribute to her for her teachings. We not only shared a common interest, but we also shared a mother-daughter bond. My mother was my mentor.”

Cottrell continues to study and learn more about basketry and she said she has read many books about Cherokee basketry including books about basket weavers from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina who make double-wall river cane baskets.

“It was my desire to learn the most difficult basket weaving – double-wall river cane basketry. Only a few weavers in Oklahoma can weave river cane and especially the double-wall river cane baskets. My first attempt of weaving a double-wall river cane basket began eight years ago,” she said. “My husband and I gather river cane growing below our home. I hand split and peel the cane. Natural materials such as black walnut, bloodroot, bois d’arc shavings, wild cherries and other berries growing wild are used to dye peeled river cane splints, honeysuckle and buck brush runners.”

She uses the first few months of the year to go into the woods to gather and prepare materials and to weave.

“I make one-of-a-kind baskets. I try not to make the same basket. Each one has its own personality,” she said. “I never considered myself a professional. I’m just a basket maker. I loved what I did with my mother.”

For information about the basket making presentation, visit http://gilcrease.org/ or call 918-596-2700.