JANUARY 12, 1907


Born in Nice, California, Mabel was raised by her maternal grandmother, also a basket weaver, who taught her the language and how to gather medicinal plants. McKay, sickly as a child, slept much and was guided by the Spirit through dreams that instructed her both in creating baskets and in traditional medicine. Weaving her first basket at age 8, she soon gained recognition and gave demonstrations at the State Indian Museum, Sacramento. Later, Mabel taught and demonstrated basketry across the country. She didn’t sell her baskets, but made them as gifts and as objects of healing. McKay’s baskets are now in many museums, including the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. She was the last of the Pomo dream doctors. An advocate for her culture and the environment, in 1976, Governor Brown appointed her to California’s First Native American Heritage Commission, where she was a powerful voice for the proper handling of sacred objects and burial sites. Mabel died in 1993.

Source: “Mabel McKay (1907-1993),” Californiamuseum.  Retrieved 2/21/2021, Mabel McKay - California Museum
Photo:  Mabel McKay making a basket, 1/16/1971.  [Item# sc31490] MSS 160 Dorothy M. Hill Collection.  Courtesy of Meriam Library Special Collections, California State University, Chico. 

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