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Royce Manuel speaks about his childhood and how the burden basket became after receving the 2013 Spirit of the Heard Award.

2013 Spirit of the Heard Honoree: ROYCE MANUEL

By Dustin Hughes
Au-Authm Action News

On Friday, October 11, the Heard Museum held its 10th Annual Spirit of the Heard award ceremony. This year’s honoree was Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community member Royce Manuel. The ceremony was held in the museum’s Steele Auditorium with more than 300 people in attendance. The Spirit of the Heard Award Ceremony is a Native American Recognition Days event.

Every year since 2004, the Heard Museum’s board of trustees has presented the Spirit of the Heard Award to a living individual who has demonstrated personal excellence, either individually or as a community leader. The award recognizes people who work in areas consistent with the mission of the Heard Museum, which is to educate the public about the heritage, lifeways and cultures of American Indians in the Southwest.

Manuel, a retired firefighter, was recognized for single-handedly bringing back into existence the kia-ha, or Pima burden basket. For decades, this basket, traditionally made by men, wasn’t seen in Salt River and its sister communities.

What started out as a question to himself about what his ancestors’ clothing looked like, the tools they used and their technology resulted in the rebirth of a forgotten iconic basket.

“People call it an art form, but it is a functional basket,” Manuel said about his work with a smile. Manuel explained that something happens when a man makes a burden basket: “He puts himself in it, and the women use it.”

“Mr. Manuel’s work is shared not only within the realms of his own tribal people, but also tribal government departments, who call upon him regularly to provide a variety of demonstrations, classes and events,” said Dr. Wayne Mitchell, a friend of Manuel’s and a life member of the Heard Museum’s board of trustees who nominated Manuel for the Spirit of the Heard Award. Mitchell added that Manuel’s effort has created a cultural network that involves educational experiences for people of all backgrounds.

Manuel continues to learn and educate the next generation about how to create the Pima burden basket and other traditional cultural items, such as the bow and arrow.

“I don’t see this as an award for me, but for the Community. The Community is being recognized for their baskets,” said Manuel when asked what this accolade means to him.

Manuel is the first Salt River Pima to receive this award, and the second Pima to receive it. In 2004, Danny Lopez (Tohono O’odham) received the award for his commitment to teaching the history and language of the O’odham.
Like the other Spirit of the Heard honorees, Manuel received a turquoise necklace, a Pendleton blanket and an award plaque.


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