Austin, Kate B.

Kate B. Austin, 2020 Inductee

Kate was born in 1904 in the area called Calva, located on the San Carlos Apache reservation. Kate was the eldest daughter of Mike and Hattie Burns and would be one of five siblings.

Kate’s early childhood was spent near the San Carlos Apache reservation. Her playground was the spacious, undisturbed hills and valleys of the area. Kate grew to truly understand and respect nature, as her mother, Hattie, also a Yavapai Basket weaver, would pass on her love of nature, weaving knowledge and skills, to her daughters.

Yavapai baskets were often constructed for various purposes, such as food storage, hauling water, shifting seeds, drying foods and for bartering. Kate and her sister Josephine would soon learn the various techniques and patterns of weaving.

Weaving baskets included gathering materials that could include splitting willow shoots, cottonwood branches and bark, devil’s claw, mesquite pitch and handling small metal tools.

Kate learned quickly the delicate but sturdy weaving skills; due to the laborious efforts of collecting the material, it was prudent to use the materials correctly.

As one can imagine, Kate’s initial baskets were not exactly round or held together.

Kate Austin, along with her sisters and brothers, were sent to the Phoenix Indian School. Kate was able to acquire the basic elementary skills however her desire and security was to return to the Fort McDowell Yavapai community. Kate returned to family and the familiarity of her home place. She possessed the patient, natural talent to master the skills, as Yavapai women were known for their unique, small and tight weave design, as well as the aptitude to maintain the design, shape and maintenance of the materials.

Kate, along with her younger sister, Josephine, was among several master weavers from the Fort McDowell Yavapai.

Kate Austin married twice; she spent time with her sisters and relatives in Fort McDowell. She did not have her own children but took care of her many nieces and nephews. She loved to laugh, joke and loved orange soda pop.

Kate Austin passed on in 1991.

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