Elsie Allen

Elsie Allen and her mother

1949 photograph of fifty year old Elsie Allen, to the left, and her mother, basket weaver Annie Burke, on the right. Image courtesy of the Sonoma County Public Library.

Elsie Allen High School

Elsie Allen High School in Santa Rosa, California.

Elsie Allen was a well-known basket weaver of Pomo heritage whose ancestors inhabited the area around California's Russian River. Allen helped to keep the unique art of basketry alive, and in doing so fostered an appreciation for Pomo traditions both within and beyond the United States.

Born Elsie Comanche on September 22, 1899 near Santa Rosa, California, Allen watched her mother and grandmother make baskets as a child. At the age of 62, Allen was finally able to devote more time to her own basket making and began to teach the art at California's Mendocino Art Center.

Allen was determined that this art and its associated traditions not be lost to antiquity. Her community regarded her as a cultural scholar, and she became known as "Pomo Sage," acquiring an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree. Her baskets are on display in public and private collections around the world.

As a member of the Native American Advisory Council from 1979-1981 on the Warm Springs Dam project, Allen contributed both to a cultural and historical record of the Makahmo and Mahilakawna (Dry Creek/West Creek) Pomo and to an ethnobotanical mitigation study, an examination of the plant lore of the Pomo tribe and the impact of environmental changes on the area and its people, and was instrumental in organizing a large scale relocation of endangered plants.

A new high school was named after Allen in Santa Rosa, California in 1995. Elsie Allen died at the age of 91 on the 31st of December, 1990.