Woven Together: Klamath Tribes Basketry from Sam and Becky Johnson

Baskets made by the Klamath Tribes on display in “Woven Together.”

September 22, 2021 – January 30, 2022

  • Family-friendly
  • Free for Members
  • Researchers
  • Teachers
  • Handicap Accessible Friendly

Oregon Historical Society
1200 SW Park Ave
Portland, Oregon 97205
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Woven Together: Klamath Tribes Basketry from Sam and Becky Johnson highlights the artistry and resilience of the Klamath Tribes of southern Oregon through their basketry and woven traditions. The Klamath Tribes include the Klamath, Modoc, and Yahooskin people. Once others recognized the numerous resources on their ancestral lands, such as timber and land suitable for grazing, the U.S. government grouped the three tribes together on a new reservation in the Klamath Basin. The Treaty of 1864 secured hunting, fishing, gathering, and water rights for the Klamath Tribes on 1.5 million acres, until the Klamath Termination Act of 1954. It took decades of persistence and tireless work by tribal members to regain some rights through The Klamath Indian Tribe Restoration Act (1986).

The Klamath Tribes are resilient and respectful of the cyclical nature of the land’s resources. From time beyond memory they have hunted, fished, and used native plants. The marshes of the Klamath Tribes homelands produce tule and cattail, necessary materials for making their baskets. Nearly all of the baskets are produced for gathering, processing, and storing seeds.

This year (2021) has been historically dry, causing an extreme drought in the Klamath Basin, leading to conflicts for access to water. The dry environment helped fuel the Bootleg Fire, at one time the largest wildfire in the Unites States, which started in July 2021. The Bootleg Fire burned through areas of the Klamath Tribes treaty lands and destroyed sites of cultural importance.

The baskets in this exhibit were collected by Sam Johnson and Becky Johnson over decades. Samuel Johnson served as a member of the Oregon House of Representatives and mayor of Redmond; his wife Becky Johnson was on the Redmond School Board, the Lewis & Clark College board of trustees, and the Oregon State Board of Higher Education. Together, they donated the headwaters of central Oregon’s Metolius River to the U.S. Forest Service to protect and preserve the area and founded the Samuel S. Johnson Foundation. Their daughter, Senator Betsy Johnson, donated the baskets to OHS.

Special thanks to Perry Chocktoot, Klamath Tribes Director of Culture and Heritage, for his help with the exhibit.