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Indian artist to demonstrate agave fiber cordage at Castle

The Camp Verde Journal of Camp Verde, Arizona

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Royce Manuel of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community in Scottsdale will demonstrate traditional agave fiber cordage and other indigenous technologies Sunday, March 29, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Montezuma Castle National Monument.

In 2010, Manuel attended the Artist Leadership Program sponsored by the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., where he conducted further research on artifacts associated with his tribe.

While in Washington, he focused on the construction of the kiaha, or traditional Akimel O'odham [Pima] burden basket because, he said, there was no one left on the reservation who could explain the process.

After his research at the Smithsonian, the retired firefighter and tribal historian was able to collect and process the agave fiber and dried saguaro ribs needed to recreate the interlinked weaving technique. Manuel began the nine-month-long process of making a traditional O'odham burden basket with its open-work net design.

For his accomplishment in reviving this lost art, Manuel was presented the 2013 Spirit of the Heard Museum Award.

Manuel also specializes in other traditional O'odham arts, including bows, arrows, flutes, rattles and baskets, replicating designs of the past as taught to him by his father, grandmother and other family members. As a tribal historian, he creates traditional O'odham calendar sticks, which record historic events and serve as a memory aid for past occurrences.

On March 29, he will share the artistry of these pre-industrial skills, especially the process of fabricating agave plant fiber cordage, with Montezuma Castle National Monument visitors.

The program is offered in recognition of Arizona Archaeology Month, held annually in March. There is no additional fee for the special program, but there is an entrance charge to the monument of $5 per adult. Children 15 and under are free. All federal recreation passes are accepted, including annual, senior, access and active-duty military passes.

Montezuma Castle National

Monument is located off Interstate 17 at 2800 Montezuma Castle Road in Camp Verde. The monument is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Dec. 25. Call 567-3322, ext. 0, for more information.

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Original Publication Date: March 25, 2015

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