Elsie Allen Pomo Basket Collection

           Pomo Basket - photo credit Devyn Breslin""Pomo gift basket photo credit - Devyn Breslin
The Jesse Peter Museum is proud to house, display, and preserve the Elsie Allen Basket Collection. This historically important collection was acquired by the Jesse Peter Museum in 2003. It is rumored that the Smithsonian Museum asked for the Basket collection but was turned down. 

This group of Pomo baskets "reflects a multigenerational family effort - mother to daughter to granddaughter - to collect and preserve the work of relations, friends, and unknown weavers whose baskets were somehow "special". To date, 26 of the native weavers whose baskets are in the collection have been identified, a remarkably high level of documentation." (Remember Your Relations - The Elsie Allen Baskets, Family, and Friends, by Suzanne Abel-Vidor, Dot Brovarney, and Susan Billy)Elsie Allen at district fair 1981

"Elsie Comanche Allen (1899-1990), born in Sonoma County and a longtime resident of Ukiah in Mendocino County, began weaving as a child. It was not until she reached retirement age that she made the choice to devote herself full-time to the practice and teaching of basketweaving. It was a passion she shared with her mother, Annie Ramon Burke (1876-1962), the originator of the Allen Collection, who defied Pomo tradition by asking her daughter to promise not to destroy her baskets when she died. Mrs. Allen also inherited Mrs. Burke's strong sense of personal mission. In a small but important book, Pomo Basketweaving, A Supreme Art for the Weaver, Mrs. Allen recalls: 

""During the years up to the age of 62, I worked at many jobs...But somewhere within me was the urge to come back to basketmaking. My mother and grandmother worked at basketweaving when I was a child. When I was older I gathered sedge roots, willows, bulrushes and redbud at the same places... with the help of my mother and grandmother we cured the material and made it into baskets. However my grandmother died in 1924, so not only did I lose her help, but most of her examples of baskets as well, as it was customary for an Indian woman to have all her baskets and reeds buried with her.

In the first few years of my married life, I attempted basketweaving. I made a basket of about eight or nine inches and that was buried with my grandmother. My next one-stick coiled basket was buried with my great uncle. A third basket..was buried with my brother-in-law. I didn't have a good feeling about making baskets after that. Mother told me that she wanted me to have her baskets to help me when I started up basketweaving again. So I promised her I would do this.. She wanted me to travel and meet people through the baskets and not destroy her baskets and have nothing left for me and others in the future. Mother died in 1962, and I have tried to keep her promise. 

Elsie Allen kept her promise by continuing to acquire baskets and by sharing her knowledge and love of weaving with any receptive person, Indian or non-Indian. The legacy begun by Annie Burke and Elsie Allen is being carried on my their descendants today." (Remember Your Relations - The Elsie Allen Baskets, Family, and Friends, by Suzanne Abel-Vidor, Dot Brovarney, and Susan Billy)