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Nettie Jackson

July 30, 1942 - May 4, 2013

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Nettie Kuneki Jackson is recognized as one of the most skilled makers of coiled baskets among the Klickitat, a people of the Yakama Nation. Courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Klickitat cedar root basket designed and created by Nettie Kuneki Jackson, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Three Klickitat cedar root baskets designed and created by Nettie Kuneki Jackson in 1981, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Klickitat cedar root basket designed and created by Nettie Kuneki Jackson in 1981, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
'People of the World,' Klickitat cedar root basket designed and created by Nettie Kuneki Jackson, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Klickitat cedar root basket designed and created by Nettie Kuneki Jackson (right basket only), courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Nettie Kuneki Jackson demonstrates the making of Klickitat cedar root baskets. courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Nettie Kuneki Jackson demonstrates the making of Klickitat cedar root baskets during the filming of the documentary "..And Woman Wove It In A Basket," a study of the effort to keep alive the Klickitat tradition of basketry and the place of this demanding art in the life of a contemporary Native American family. 1989, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Nettie Kuneki Jackson holding two of her Klickitat cedar root baskets, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Nine gallon Klickitat cedar root basket designed and created by Nettie Kuneki Jackson, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Klickitat cedar root basket designed and created by Nettie Kuneki Jackson, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Three gallon 'Butterfly' Klickitat cedar root basket designed and created by Nettie Kuneki Jackson, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Klickitat cedar root basket designed and created by Nettie Kuneki Jackson, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Klickitat cedar root basket designed and created by Nettie Kuneki Jackson, 1989, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
'People of the World II', Klickitat cedar root basket designed and created by Nettie Kuneki Jackson, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts

Nettie Jackson spent most of her early years around accomplished basketmakers. Every summer until she was 12, she lived with her Klickitat grandmother, Mattie Spencer Slockish, who was a skilled basket\maker. Later she watched her mother-in-law, Elsie Thomas, make baskets, using native materials and creating traditional shapes. Jackson was inspired by these women and by her mother's wish, before her death in 1972, that her daughters take up their tribal traditions. Jackson took up the craft, putting to work what she had learned in years of observation.

Her effort and commitment paid off. Jackson, who lived until her death in White Swan, Washington, is recognized as one of the most skilled and creative basket makers among the Klickitat, a people of the Yakama Nation. She continued the old methods of gathering beargrass and splitting roots of the Western red cedar to make beautiful coiled baskets. Her baskets range from small to the 10-gallon size.

Like her mother, Jackson waned to ensure that younger people did not lose sight of their heritage. She organized classes in beadwork, featherwork, and basketweaving. She studied historic baskets in order to reconstruct ancient designs, braiding patterns and imbrication, which is an overlapping of edges. "I work on baskets every day," she said, "but when I start a new design or a big basket, I am consumed with weaving. I work night and day until I get an idea out. It is always a challenge to see if a design will work."

Jackson is admired in the Northwest as an extraordinary artist, cultural conservator and mentor. Her work is displayed in museums throughout the region, and she coauthored the book The Heritage of Klickitat Basketry: A History and Art Preserved. She was featured in the award-winning 1989 film ...And Woman Wove It in a Basket, received a Washington State Governor's Arts and Heritage Award in 1992 and served as a master artist in the state arts commission's apprenticeship program. She passed her skills to three of her children and her sister to ensure a future for her family and tribal tradition.

Of her life's work, Jackson said, "I learn out of my need to know, out of my obligation of being a basketmaker, out of my need to keep going. Even if I worked every day on baskets, I probably will never do all I want to do in my lifetime."

Bibliography
Jackson, Nettie, with Elsie Thomas and Marie Stockish. The Heritage of Klickitat Basketry: A History and Art Preserved. (Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press, 1982, 1988.)

Filmography
...And Woman Wove It in a Basket. 16mm, color, 70 minutes. Directed by Bushra Azzouz, Marlene Farnum, and Nettie Jackson Kuneki. New York: Women Make Movies, 1989.

Watch

Nettie Jackson interviewed by Barry Bergey, 2000 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., courtesy National Endowment for the Arts

Listen

Nettie Kuneki Jackson talks about her schooling, Washington, D.C., 2000, recorded by Alan Govenar

Nettie Kuneki Jackson talks about her life in Washington State, Washington, D.C., 2000, recorded by Alan Govenar

Nettie Kuneki Jackson answers the question 'How did you get started making Klickitat baskets?' Washington, D.C., 2001, recorded by Alan Govenar