Parting is such sweet sorrow | Dat So La Lee baskets heading to Tinseltown | SierraSun.com

Parting is such sweet sorrow | Dat So La Lee baskets heading to Tinseltown

Marguerite Sprague
Special to the Sun
Photo courtesy North Lake Tahoe Historical SocietyDat So La Lee created baskets of willow, using a three rod coiling technique. Many of her baskets were and#8220;degikupand#8221; baskets, that start with a small circular base, then coil outwards to a larger circumference, twining back in to a top about the same size as the bottom.
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TAHOE CITY, Calif. and#8212; A basket the size of a lentil and#8212; perhaps a tad smaller and#8212; is just one of Dat So La Leeand#8217;s remarkable creations exhibited at the Gatekeperand#8217;s Museum. But all things must come to an end, and the Dat So La Lee exhibit is about to close, with the Washoe weaverand#8217;s baskets headed to the Autry Museum in Los Angeles later this month.

Dat So La Lee, who died in 1929, is arguably the most famous Washoe weaver ever, and among the most famous American basketweavers. Because she is a basketweaving celebrity, it seems only logical her baskets are headed for Los Angeles, land of celebrities.

Since 2005, the Gatekeeperand#8217;s Museum has exhibited her miniature baskets on loan from Gene Quintana of Carmichael, Calif. The exhibit space resembles Abe and Amy Cohnand#8217;s Emporium that stood on the lakeshore. The Cohns promoted Dat So La Lee and helped create her enduring celebritihood.

The baskets are remarkable in their artistry: two especially miniscule baskets are exhibited behind a magnifying glass. and#8220;How could anyone weave these?and#8221; visitors ask. Experts explain that accomplished weavers work without thinking: their hands have learned the motions the way a pianist plays without sheet music.

Dat So La Leeand#8217;s American name was Louisa Keyser. Born near Woodfords, her Washoe name was and#8220;Debuda.and#8221; Various definitions include and#8220;young willowand#8221; and and#8220;quiet woman.and#8221; Similarly, sources disagree about how she became and#8220;Dat So La Lee.and#8221; One claims and#8220;Dat So La Leeand#8221; means and#8220;Queen of the Washoe Basketmakers.and#8221; Another says, and#8220;The name was actually derived from and#8230; Dr. S.L. Lee, the first admiring white man to take an interest in her work.and#8221; Back in the day it was not uncommon for Native people to keep their Native language names private, and choose names to be used in the American world, often taking inspiration from someone they knew.

To celebrate the Dat So La Lee exhibit, and send the baskets off with proper recognition, the Gatekeeperand#8217;s Museum, with the North Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce, invites the public to a and#8220;Going Awayand#8221; celebration and Community Mixer on Thursday evening, April 19, 5-7 p.m., 130 West Lake Blvd. in Tahoe City, near Fanny Bridge. The Museum is honored to note Washoe Chairperson Wanda Batchelor is slated to attend. Have a last look at this local artistand#8217;s amazing baskets. For more information, call 530-583-1762 or email info@northtahoemuseums.org. Gatekeeperand#8217;s Museum is open Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. or call for appointment.

Sources: http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/nevada/dat.htm; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dat_So_La_Lee; http://www.tahoecountry.com/oldtimetahoe/dotsolalee.html and http://www.californiabaskets.com/pages/specialitems/dat.html

and#8212; Submitted to aedgett@sierrasun.com by Marguerite Sprague, executive director, North Lake Tahoe Historical Society