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Elsie Allen

Elsie Allen, our namesake, was a Southern Pomo Indian and a fourth generation basket weaver known worldwide for her beautiful basketry. Born in Santa Rosa on September 22, 1899, Elsie described her Indian way of life as very bad due to the diseases, war and destruction brought by white settlers.


elsie allen

As a young girl, Elsie lived in the Cloverdale area. She contracted measles at age 5. As there were no white doctors available, she was treated with healing herbs and special Indian ceremonies performed by her grandfather. Although she had no friends or toys, she enjoyed playing in the countryside. At age 8, she went to live with her grandmother and great uncle in a wooden house in Hopland. They fished, hunted and gathered acorns for mush. At 11, she was taken from her family and sent to an Indian reservation school in Mendocino County where only English was spoken. Elsie only spoke Pomo which was forbidden at this school. She then went to a government school for Indians where she lived and learned to read, write and speak English.


Elsie married a Northern Pomo Indian, Arthur Allen, in 1919 and they had four children.  She worked many jobs including harvesting crops, while raising her children. When her children were grown, Elsie returned to basket weaving following in the tradition of her mother and grandmother. At age 62, Elsie started making baskets full time. Her beautiful baskets became known far and wide. She wanted to make sure that the art of basket weaving would not be forgotten or lost. She gave classes in weaving techniques and taught others how to gather and prepare basket materials. Elsie Allen was a tribal scholar and consulted on Southern Pomo culture and language. She lived until the age of 91.