After recent rains, a lush crop of reeds has grown along the banks of the Salt River. On Saturday, a group of about 20 gathered to harvest the reeds and willows to make traditional baskets.
The gathering sprouted from a partnership between the Gila River Indian Community Urban Members Association and the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department.
Phoenix allowed the group to collect the reeds on city property.
Multiple members from Arizona tribes participated Saturday with tools in hand. The harvesting of reeds and willows has been a long tradition. Baskets are used for storage, cooking, storytelling and ceremonies.
Yolanda Elias, who is in her 60s, has been harvesting reeds since she was 13. At the time, she said, she wasn’t focused on it and just wanted to ride her horse and play baseball.
“This is a lot of work,” Elias said. “But I started back up when I was 27. … Once you learn from your elders, it stays with you.”
She said she appreciated the opportunity to teach the next generation — and get some help with the labor.
“It’s nice to teach the young,” she said. “When I go harvest on my own, I make sure someone very young comes with me, because you need that young strength.”
Elias stood on higher ground from the people harvesting so that she could take in their reeds and strip them clean so that the material was ready to begin…
click here to read more.