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Mabel McKay

Mabel McKay: Weaving the Dream

Greg Sarris
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Pages: 182
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  • Book Info
    Mabel McKay
    Book Description:

    A world-renowned Pomo basket weaver and medicine woman, Mabel McKay expressed her genius through her celebrated baskets, her Dreams, her cures, and the stories with which she kept her culture alive. She spent her life teaching others how the spirit speaks through the Dream, how the spirit heals, and how the spirit demands to be heard. Greg Sarris weaves together stories from Mabel McKay's life with an account of how he tried, and she resisted, telling her story straight-the white people's way. Sarris, an Indian of mixed-blood heritage, finds his own story in his search for Mabel McKay's. Beautifully narrated,Weaving the Dreaminitiates the reader into Pomo culture and demonstrates how a woman who worked most of her life in a cannery could become a great healer and an artist whose baskets were collected by the Smithsonian. Hearing Mabel McKay's life story, we see that distinctions between material and spiritual and between mundane and magical disappear. What remains is a timeless way of healing, of making art, and of being in the world. Sarris's new preface, written expressly for this edition, meditates on Mabel McKay's enduring legacy and the continued importance of her teachings.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95522-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Sarah Taylor’s Granddaughter
    (pp. 1-34)

    The scene was typical. Mabel lecturing, answering questions from an auditorium of students and faculty who wanted to know about her baskets and her life as a medicine woman. As always, she was puzzling, maddening. But that morning I studied her carefully, as if I might see or understand something about her for the first time. She had asked me to write her life story, and after knowing her for over thirty years and with stacks of notes and miles of tape, I still didn’t know how.

    “You’re an Indian doctor,” a young woman with bright red hair spoke from...

  5. Carnivals, Madams, and Mixed-Up Indian Doctors
    (pp. 35-67)

    Mabel might not have been able to cook and clean house. She might not have known about marriage. But she knew how to weave baskets. At an early age she demonstrated an astonishing ability to handle willow rods, sedge roots, and redbud bark. She made small but beautiful coiled baskets. She created anthill and quail designs without ever having seen the patterns before. When Sarah dug sedge along sandy creek beds or cut redbud in the hills, Mabel had energy to help. She worked along with Sarah. She could sit for hours splitting and peeling sedge roots or peeling and...

  6. Medicine Woman
    (pp. 68-121)

    But I keep on Dreaming,” Mabel said that night in April. “During that time on the train, in San Francisco, my Dreaming don’t stop. That’s what bothered me. I couldn’t get away from my Dream.”

    After she left the brothel, Mabel took a job caring for a woman who smoked marijuana and drank wine. “Another babysitting job,” Mabel said. The woman was married to a banker. Mabel soaked the hemp leaves in wine then dried them in the oven. She rolled cigarette after cigarette and gave them to the woman. Then Mabel caught the woman as she fell to the...

  7. Prayer Basket
    (pp. 122-165)

    Late in 1975, after the fall apple crop, Mabel retired from the cannery. She was sixty-eight years old. She had worked cutting and peeling apples for twenty years, long enough to earn a pension. She had paid off the house on Robles Avenue and provided her son Marshall a comfortable life. Not long after she retired, she quit driving. One night, on her way to doctor someone, a woman ran a stop sign and hit her. “You don’t drive anymore,” the spirit told her. “If people want you, they can come for you.” She had her car repaired and gave...

  8. Back Matter
    (pp. 166-166)