‘Acorn Lady’ honored at Native American Day

Lois Conner Bohna speaks at her honoring ceremony in the Table Mountain Rancheria reading room on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. (The Collegian/Larry Valenzuela)

The American Indian Programs and Services, Cross Cultural and Gender Center, American Indian Studies and Outreach and Special Programs sponsored the California Native American Day held in the Table Mountain Rancheria reading room on Sept. 27. 

Lois Conner Bohna, a North Fork Mono and Chukchansi basket maker, cultural practitioner and artist popularly known as the “Acorn Lady,” was honored at the event for her work.

“In becoming a master basket weaver, she is the keeper of memory, she sustains memory through her fingers, through her hands and in doing so she honors her ancestors, nature, grandmother and aunts and her mother who taught her how to weave, said Dr. Saul Jimenez-Sandoval, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “And in doing so, she honors her people’s history and California as land of the Native Americans.”

Conner moved in with her grandparents the day of her high school graduation; her bags packed, she was ready to go discover more about her culture and her people. 

She said she figured that there would be so many stories about her culture at her grandparent’s home, but the culture was rarely spoken about. 

Conner’s mother shared with her wonderful stories about when she was growing up and lived with rattlesnakes.

Rosalie Bethel, an individual who is close to Conner, taught her about her people and culture. 

“Lois, inside of us Native women are baskets waiting to be born,” Bethal told her. 

In 2009, a documentary of her process of basket making was sponsored by California State University, Fresno and the Table Mountain Rancheria. 

For the documentary, Conner filled every role from make-up artist to the director, as she had a button next to her water bowl to turn the camera on and off in order to capture every stitch. 

She said the setup for the project was “amazing for weaving, perfect,” with lots of LED lights. The long red dress draped over her feet when seated because her feet needed to be covered. 

She was given the task to make a basket that had men and women holding hands, rattlesnakes and the rest was up to her. 

“That basket looks exactly like it was supposed to look. That was the basket inside of me waiting to be born,” Conner said, recalling what Bethel had shared with her. 

The library has a replica of the 32-inch-wide gambling tray, which Conner weaved over the course of two years,  in the Table Mountain Rancheria reading room. 

“Her weaving is both literal and symbolic,” Jimenez-Sandoval said. “One can say that she weaves the library together.”

During the event, Conner welcomed attendees to take pictures with her. Visitors were also allowed to take a moment to admire her table full of her materials and pictures of her loved ones. 

“My heart is here in this library because I always am aware that I am working, and the students that have their heads down and they are working,” Conner said. “We’re a team, and that has never left me, and has not left me for ten years. I am here.” 

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