In Ernie Stensgar’s Plummer, Idaho, office sits an heirloom older than any human, a relic passed down from his great-great-grandparents: a set of four 150-year-old gathering baskets, handwoven from Inland north-west reeds.
Built to last, the receptacles still haven’t frayed, despite age. They’re not museum exhibits, either. Stensgar uses them to collect mountain huckleberries, prairie plants and water potatoes from nearby Coeur d’Alene Lake, sacred water to his people. Like his ancestors, he plans to pass them along when it’s time.
“I’m the oldest one in the family, so I got to give it to the next [generation] when I pass,” said Stengsar, a tribal council member and former chairman for the Schitsu’umsh, or Coeur d’Alene Tribe.