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By Maurice Winternitz

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Willow is gathered only at certain times of the year, beginning in autumn after the leaves fall. For many of the weavers, gathering will continue until the following spring when the sap begins to rise again. The various weavers each have their personal areas, times, and kinds of willow to select. Washoe weaver JoAnn Martinez says willows gathered in fall are a beautiful orange color. For Schurz basketmaker Irene Cline, Thanksgiving is the best time to pick. She says the willows are stronger then and adds that they are better in higher altitudes.

The strings must also be scraped, cleaned, and sized. This is a lengthy operation. "Your fingers get tired and your hands start to hurt," says JoAnn. " Storage The rolled willow bundles are left to dry in a shady place. Shade helps preserve the beautiful white color unique to the willow and most prized by the People. If the brown color is wanted as a contrast, Theresa says the willow threads can be hung, shiny side out, on a line, and they will turn brown. Lilly Sanchez wraps her rolled threads with bark, as her aunts and grandmother did, or with strips of cloth.

3 The People tell us their ancestors adapted to their environment well. They built shelters and knew which medicine plants could be used to cure illness. They knew when the berries and nuts were ready to harvest and where and how to hunt and fish. They lived with the seasons and breathed their desert space with intimate oneness. Some have called it miraculous that so many of the People have survived the white way of life. They carry on despite loss of traditional Native lands and the limitations of reservation living, high rates of joblessness, nuclear testing and military bombing on their sacred land, use of pesticides, the cutting down of the piñon trees, a primary food source, and a general loss of honor visited upon them by more than 160 years of white invasion and interference.

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