This article contains wording that promotes the subject in a subjective manner without imparting real information. (December 2013)
|Died||May 31, 1993(aged 86)|
|Education||Spiritual training, self-taught|
|Known for||Basket weaving|
McKay was born on 12 January 1907 in Nice in Lake County, California. Her father was Yanta Boone (Potter Valley Pomo) and her mother was Daisy Hansen (Lolsel Cache Creek Pomo). She was raised by her maternal grandmother, Sarah Taylor, who taught her both the Long Valley Cache Creek language and how to identify and forage for medicinal plants. At the age of eight, she was guided by her dreams to weave her first basket. She did not attend school past the third grade due to a series of illnesses.
Weaving for McKay was a spiritual path, not a craft. She claimed she was strictly instructed by Spirit as to how and what to weave. Because of the sacred nature of her weaving, she usually wove in private. She used sedge for her baskets, and redbud for the red designs, as per Pomo tradition. Some of her baskets also used feathers. Her baskets were featured in many newspapers as a prodigy of her craft. She began giving demonstrations in the State Indian Museum in Sacramento, refusing to sell them and only giving them as gifts. In the late 1970s she began teaching basket-weaving classes for both native and non-native students. She continued with her baskets until death, and many have been exhibited in museums such as the National Museum of Natural History.
Academic and advisory work
In the late 1960s McKay was on the Native American Advisory Council for a proposed dam in Dry Creek, which would disturb an ancestral Pomo village site and long-standing beds of sedge. Although they could not prevent the dam's construction, the council was able to document the site and transplant some of the sedge beds. McKay also spoke at universities and served as a cultural consultant for anthropologists. She spoke at the New School in New York with Essie Parrish on March 14, 1972. In 1976 she was appointed to California's first Native American Heritage Commission.
From 2016 to 2017 the Autry Museum of the American West exhibited McKay's work in an exhibit titled "The Life and Work of Mabel McKay". Her son, Marshall McKay, helped put together the exhibit.
Greg Sarris published a biography of Mabel in 1997, called Weaving the Dream (University of California Press).
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- Sarris, Greg. 1993. Keeping slug woman alive: A holistic approach to American Indian texts. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-08007-2.