Royce Manuel received the prestigious Jean Seth Award for Basket Making at the 90th Annual Santa Fe Indian Market in August.
Photos courtesy of Royce and Debbie Manuel

Community Member Cultural and Preserving Talent Earns Many Awards

By Tasha Silverhorn
Au-Authm Action News

During August, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community member Royce Manuel and his family traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico for the 90th Annual Santa Fe Indian Market, presented by the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA). Manuel has earned many awards in the past few years for his skill in making traditional burden baskets, arrowheads, bows and arrows, and traditional three-holed flutes. At the Indian Market, Manuel was honored with a prestigious Special Award: the Jean Seth Award for Basket Making.

Held annually during the third week of August, the Santa Fe Indian Market is the largest, most prestigious Native arts market in the world and the largest Native American cultural event in the Southwest. This year the market pulled in 1,500 American Indian artists from all across the country, who displayed and sold their traditional and contemporary Native American artwork in multiple categories, including jewelry, pottery, sculpture, textiles, paintings, wooden carvings (such as kachina dolls), bead work, baskets, and diverse arts, including drums, bows and arrows, cradle boards and more.

Manuel has dedicated himself to learning traditional O’odham basket-making techniques with agave fibers and cotton and teaching others this important cultural skill. Last year, he was selected for the Artist Leadership Program sponsored by the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, traveling to Washington, D.C. to view the NMAI special collections and research traditional O’odham art forms of the past.

“I am grateful learning what I did as far as the burden baskets because it has opened doors for me, for example working with the Smithsonian, and it continues to open the doors because [I have been] recognized for all the natural materials, such as the Jean Seth Award from the SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market,” said Manuel.

This is Manuel’s second year at the Santa Fe Indian Market. In 2010, he won a first-place award in the Basketry classification, Miscellaneous category (because the basket was unique, it did not fall in any of the other categories, it was placed in the miscellaneous), for his burden basket, and he also won second place in the Diverse Art Forms classification, Bows/Arrows and Quivers category, for a willow bow and arrow.

“It was great,” said Manuel. “This year was cool too, because I was placed in the Plaza during the Indian Market. It’s neat because it takes an artist a long time to actually be placed in the Plaza, but [because of] some mix-up with paperwork I was actually placed in the Plaza; it was good.”

Manuel’s favorite part about participating in the Santa Fe Indian Market was getting to meet all the different artists from Indian tribes, not only in the Southwest, but all across the country.

“It was good, because not only do I do the burden basket, but I also do the arrowheads, bows and arrows, and the flutes,” said Manuel. “I get recognition by the basketry work, but when people come up to my booth they realize there is a lot more to it. They will see that I work on the bows and arrows, the arrowheads, and the flutes. So it is good to share my work with other people.”

Manuel’s knack for creating a traditional O’odham burden basket from the ground up has also given him many opportunities to share his knowledge and talent with others. He hopes to continue to educate people about the burden basket and to continue his work with agave fibers. Manuel has a video on for anyone to view that shows the process of making a traditional burden basket. He and the Community are also working on another video, which will premiere at the opening of Native American Recognition Days at the end of September.

In 2008, Manuel’s contemporary cotton cordage burden basket won Best of Category and Best of Classification at the Fifth Annual Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation Indian Market.

In 2009, another burden basket won first place in its division at the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market in Phoenix. His three-holed flute won second place in its division in the same show. Both items were purchased by the Community and are displayed in the Two Waters buildings.

Also in 2009, Manuel took part in the Sixth Annual Fort McDowell Indian Market, and his burden basket won Best of Category and Best of Classification.

This weekend, Manuel will be at the Centennial Best Fest event taking place around the Courthouse Plaza in Prescott, which features an American Indian Village where he will be representing the Community along with other artists. His burden basket will also be available for view at Native American Recognition Days and the Four Tribes meeting.

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