The Ohlone Basket Project
The Native Californian basket collection at the Oakland Museum of California encompasses approximately 2,500 baskets from nearly all of the geographic and cultural regions of the state, including more than 50 tribal groups. However, this celebrated collection was missing one quintessential aspect of California’s Native American heritage—Ohlone basketry. Ohlone baskets are rare, with only a few dozen known to exist worldwide. Their scarceness is partly due to the tribe’s practice of burning one’s personal possessions upon death, as well as the radical culture change brought about in the Bay Area by the missionaries and early settlers. In 2010, OMCA commissioned Ohlone artist, basket weaver, and scholar Linda Yamane to create a very rare Ohlone basket to enhance the Museum’s Native American collection. This basket was the first of its kind to be made in more than 250 years, and serves as the sole Ohlone basket represented in OMCA’s collection.
Yamane, a renowned Ohlone basket weaver who specializes in ancient Ohlone traditions, is a Rumsien Ohlone of the Native people of the Monterey area. The Rumsien Ohlone are closely related to the tribes that first inhabited the greater San Francisco Bay Area, including what is now Oakland. Linda Yamane has spent several years researching and recreating the traditional Ohlone basketry style; and she and her students are the only authentic Ohlone weavers alive today.
In an effort to preserve the heritage of the Ohlone people, OMCA documented Yamane’s creative process over the years it took to complete the Ohlone Basket Project. Visit us here for videos unveiling the ancient rituals of Ohlone basket weaving techniques, from the collection of willow sticks and sedge roots to the hand grinding of olivella shell beads to attach to the coiled basket’s surface.
The Ohlone Basket Project is made possible by generous support from the Oakland Museum Women's Board.