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As It Was: Karok Woman Weaves Variety of Rogue River Baskets

Adeline Billings made useful and lasting baskets and hats for Rogue River Canyon dwellers after settling with her husband, John Billings, near Agness, Ore., in 1868.

A Karok native who grew up along the Klamath River, Adeline had learned basket weaving from her mother and how to find the grasses, brush and roots for a wide variety of utilitarian baskets.

Adeline had a dog and a pony, and when her 10 children were older, she'd take off for several days into the deep forest and come home loaded down with weaving supplies.  She used pine roots that swelled tight for water baskets, strong pliable sticks from hazelnut trees for carrying baskets, and root dyes for fancy, colorful ones.

Miners loved her straw hats because the expert weaving resisted wear.  The miners hunted gold, but Adeline considered weaving to be her special gold mine, accepting only five-dollar gold pieces for her work.  She made hundreds of items over 60 years, gradually wearing her teeth down by holding the grasses taut in her teeth.   

Adeline died in 1921, but some of her baskets still exist, confirmation that they were made to last.

Source:  Atwood, Kay. Illahe, Medford, Ore. Gandee Printing Center, 1979, pp. 147-55.         

Lynda Demsher has been editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, a radio reporter, a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for the Redding Record Searchlight, Redding California. She is a former teacher and contributed to various non-profit organizations in Redding in the realm of public relations, ads, marketing, grant writing and photography.