Tunica-Biloxi holding 'virtual' Native American basketry summit Saturday

The Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana’s Language and Cultural Revitalization Program (LCRP) will host its 5th Annual Intertribal Basketry Summit from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday (Oct. 31), but it will be a bit different from the previous four.

The LCRP wants to keep Tribal citizens connected with traditional artisans and the community. To continue that goal during the current COVID pandemic, the 5th Annual Basketry Summit will be hosted as a two-hour virtual weaving session.

The goal of the Summit is to educate the community and younger generations on the history and culture of the Tribe through interactive, live demonstrations showcasing the unique designs the tribes are known for in an effort to keep the ancient art of basket weaving alive.

“Even though the COVID-19 pandemic won’t allow us to gather in-person for this special annual event, we are still excited to gather virtually to learn from our neighbors and come together as a community,” said John Barbry, Director of the Language and Culture Revitalization Program within the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe. “There is so much to be learned about our unique Native American culture and this event is the perfect way to celebrate our shared heritage to ensure the traditions and craft of basketry lives on for generations.”

Tunica-Biloxi Tribal citizens, as well as weavers from neighboring American Indian communities, will demonstrate southeast basket traditions using long leaf pine needles, river cane and palmetto.

Nan MacDonald, master weaver and cultural consultant working with the Coquille Indian Tribe on the southern Oregon coast, will be the guest presenter. Nan will be joined by Mr. Kent Rilatos, a citizen of the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians and board member of the Siletz Tribal Museum.

They will discuss the vital role of Bear Grass to the Pacific Northwest culture and how it has been gathered and used for generations for making patterns on fine basketry, adornment on ceremonial regalia, necklaces and bandoliers.

Basketry is an enduring and distinguishing indigenous art form. For years, many Tunica and Biloxi weavers made baskets from local plants, such as dyed river cane, and sold the baskets for income.

Each element of the weave and design are steeped in the history and heritage of the tribe. The Annual Basketry Summit is just one of the many ways that the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe works to preserve its culture.

The event is free and open to the public. Participants are responsible for sourcing their own basket making materials.

All weavers and observers must have their own computer device with a camera and microphone to participate and are encouraged to register in advance by contacting Jessica Barbry, jabarbry@tunica.org, (318) 240-6469.

The event will be 100 percent virtual and there will be no gathering -- not even in small groups -- to watch the presenters' program.

Ms. Barbry said those wishing to participate via ZOOM link must register with her to get the link so they can access the forum from their home computer. The Zoom is limited to about 100 participants, she said. The presentation will also be streamed on the LCRP's Facebook page for those interested in viewing it.

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