Second cousins once removed, Viki Graber and her apprentice Susan Harder continue their family’s basketmaking tradition to a fifth generation. They trace their basketmaking lineage to Viki’s great grandfather Jacob Graber, who immigrated to the Dakota territories from Russia in 1874. Historically, basketmaking was a utilitarian craft, but today Viki and Susan embrace weaving willow as an artistic medium. As part of their apprenticeship, Viki is teaching Susan the ins and outs of willow basketmaking techniques and design, as well as how to raise, harvest, cut, and sort willow.
It is important for them to not only practice this tradition, but to continue its legacy in their family. Viki remembers the validation she felt in 2009 when her father LeRoy Graber received the National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellowship, the highest award given to folk and traditional artists in the United States. Their home community is especially excited that Viki and Susan are carrying on their tradition so they can demonstrate basket weaving together at Schmeckfest, an annual festival in Freeman, South Dakota.