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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Trio Keeps Basket Weaving Part Of Mission Tradition
by Joe Haakenson - for The Orange County (CA) Register
American Indian traditions are alive and well at Mission San Juan Capistrano, thanks to a small group who have maintained the art of basket weaving.

Teeter Marie Olivares Romero, Ellen Sue Olivares and Kim Olivares Leone teach basket weaving the first and third Wednesdays of each month at the mission. It has become an integral part of the mission's efforts to preserve the area's history and traditions.

Romero is the aunt of Olivares and Leone, who are half sisters.

Romero has been weaving baskets about 35 years. She came up with the idea during San Juan's celebration of the mission's 200th anniversary in 1976.

"When we reached out in the '70s, I was a docent," she said. "I come from five generations of docents. We started looking for something to recognize the history. The 200th anniversary triggered it in us. The whole city, we celebrated for one whole year. I started basket weaving and I liked it. I kept it up because I got so interested in the culture."

Romero soon learned that basket weaving involves an intricate process. She learned that getting the materials requires more than a trip to the store.

"You have to find a place to gather, so we'd go to the river for materials, but it was all concrete in the '70s," she said. "We have to go into the wild for materials, like juncus and yucca. Once you have the materials, you have to dry 'em, then size 'em, then cut 'em. It takes a long time from beginning to end."

Romero said she donates some of the baskets she makes, and saves many to give to a museum someday.

Olivares said her intent when making baskets "is to capture the culture of our elders and teach other generations."

Leone says her 7-year-old granddaughter is "learning all of our traditions, and it is rewarding to know I'm showing two generations."

It's a family tradition that Romero says was meant to be.

"I've lived all my life two blocks away from the mission," she said. "Sometimes you're meant to be in one spot. I knew if I married someone from here, I'd never leave."

She married the now-deceased Bill Romero, whose father worked at the mission and knew how to make adobe.

"The mission, for our kids, for our family, has always been our playground," Teeter Romero said.

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