A Grand Ronde tribal member interview

From an Interview with Stephanie Craig, MA:IS
Grand Ronde tribal member
Tribal artist, cultural bearer,  anthropologist, museum consultant, owner of Kalapuya Weaving and Consulting

Stephanie Craig is part of the Yoncalla and Santiam Kalapuya tribes, among many others, and enrolled at the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. Over the years, she has found her passion in the tribal tradition of basket weaving.

Or rather, she says, it found her. 

While studying anthropology, archaeology and indigenous museum studies in college, she explored various Native American crafts, including lithics – crafting tools from stone. However, basketry has remained her true calling. 

“I think the ancestors chose me because it does come so easy, and I really enjoy it,” she says.

“Being at the UO and working at the Museum of Natural History and Cultural History in Collections, I was drawn and connected even more with basketry. At that time, they had a huge picture on a wall of my family and their basketry, and working in the Collections and seeing them daily, it allowed me to be able to create my basketry and exhibit in public places.”

Even though Craig is a weaver by trade, she didn’t get instruction from her family. Tribal members were not allowed to practice basket weaving on the reservation. Craig’s grandmother shared tales of gathering weaving materials with her grandparents, indicating that it had been several generations since anyone in their family had practiced the art of basket weaving. Her maternal family members took up sewing, crocheting and knitting, which were acceptable forms of weaving, and the handwork is very similar, she says.   

“I was never pushed into it,” Craig said about basket making. “I was always encouraged to participate in any way I could and embrace my heritage.” However, when she visited her grandmother as a child, basketry was a constant presence, and their conversations often revolved around it. She didn’t take up basketry until she was a teenager when she took a class with her mom “just for fun.” 

That’s all it took.

Craig sought out mentors to enhance her skills. She took classes from elders and weavers from Washington, Oregon and California. During college, she started teaching and opened her business, Kalapuya Weaving and Consulting. She now teaches weaving classes throughout Oregon, as well as doing museum consulting on collections and best practices. 

To find out more about her classes and how to enroll, visit kalapuyaweaving.com.

While she does not live on the reservation, Craig is keenly aware of the history behind them and the treatment of her ancestors, who were forcibly removed to the Grand Ronde Reservation in the 1850s along the Trail of Tears.

At that time, she says, “Life on the reservation wasn’t good. They couldn’t do anything [from their culture]. They had to get a pass to leave.”

Reservation life did not improve over time. 

“[There’s] a lot of trauma, historic trauma, and we are related to almost everyone, which is why my mom didn’t want to marry anyone or continue to live on the reservation,” Craig says. 

Drugs and alcohol were prevalent, and her mother didn’t want to raise her children in that environment. Her mother met her father, a non-native, fell in love and got married. Craig grew up on a farm 35 miles east of the Grand Ronde Reservation, in Kalapuya country.Still, she is aware of her history and how it has shaped her life.

“My dad’s a farmer, and my mom’s tribal, so relationship with the land and place was super important,” she says” 

And the fact her craft revolves around natural materials strengthens that connection and makes it, well, natural. 

“It all simply fell into place.”

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