Tsalagi Basketry: Qualla Co-op

Rivercane market baskets like this one from the Peabody Museum (Harvard) were, in the early 1900's traded to local white farmers for food. Double-woven baskets are extra-sturdy. Even though made for use, not show, the women who wove these for thir own use and for trade made them beautiful. Some farmers began reselling the baskets to collectors and museums.
Eva Wolfe, master rivercane weaver of the Eastern Band Cherokees, preserved the technique of double-weaving, and turned utility into art. Photographed in 1969 by the BIA Arts and Crafts Board.

Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual is a co-op, started in 1946, owned and managed by the artists and craftspeople. A co-op cuts out middlemen in marketing, and allows the producer-owners to reinvest part of the profits in growth, as well as distributing better amounts on sales. Managing the co-op in its 40 years of growth was good education for later planning for and managing larger financial and other affairs of the tribe. It was the first co-op ever on a U.S. reservation. There still are not many. Most Reservation Business Committees and tribal enterprises were created without this long history in self-management.
Basketry is still the glory of Qualla Mutual's arts and crafts. (Baskts are the biggest sellers at the on-reservation shop catring to tourists.) Pottery, wood carvings (especially masks), jewelry, fingerweaving, dolls in native garments are also carried by the co-op. The beautifully illustrated Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual catalog can be obtained for $2 from Qualla Catalog, Box 310, Cherokee, NC 28719. Phone credit card orders can be placed at (704) 497-3103. Tribal arts and crafts people, and young artists looking for ways to control marketing, can learn a great deal -- and prhaps considr implementing co-ops -- from the success and growth of Qualla Mutual.

 Continue -- Tsalagi history, culture links

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CREDITS: Rivercane market basket, Peabody Museum, from 500 Nations, Alfred A. Knopf, 1993. 1969 photo of Eva Wolfe, "Basketry by Eva Wolfe," Indian Arts and Crafts Board and Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, 1969. 1992 Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual catalog cover.

Webmistress --Paula Giese. Explanatory text and graphics copyright 1995.

Last Updated: Saturday, October 05, 1996 - 8:31:52 AM