Cherie Cloudt never particularly wanted to be on television.
“Who wants to be on TV?” she asked, laughing.
But as a historical archaeologist with a potentially important woven Modoc Indian basket, Cloudt could not resist the temptation.
In January, she wrote to the PBS show “History Detectives,” telling them about her basket, into which the name “Toby” is woven.
“That’s what was really interesting about the basket,” said Cloudt, who grew up in Payson but now lives in New Mexico. Names woven into baskets are unusual, said Cloudt.
Three days after submitting the letter, the folks from Oregon Public Broadcasting e-mailed asking for pictures and general information about the basket. Two weeks later, a producer called with more questions.
Then a month passed. Cloudt abandoned hope. Then she received a phone call. The “History Detectives” wanted to film. The show even sent a producer to Albuquerque to pick up the basket.
Cloudt had owned the artifact, a gift from a family friend, for more than 20 years, and had already researched it extensively. She had two major questions: Was the basket an authentic Modoc basket? And, did Toby Riddle weave it?
Riddle is considered the heroine of the Modoc War because of her work translating between the Modoc and the U.S. Army.
The Modocs originally lived on the lava beds of southern Oregon. But in 1864, the Indians signed a treaty with the U.S. government, agreeing to cede most of their territory in exchange for land near the Upper Klamath Lake.
Cloudt said the Indians presented a danger to Americans moving westward after the Civil War.
“There wasn’t a lot of money to send soldiers out to guard the people that were moving westward.”
But the Klamaths and the Modocs fought. Fleeing the discord, the Modocs hid out in their lava bed homes until the government sent a peace commission to talk. The Modocs shot them all, said Cloudt.
However, Riddle saved the life of Reverend Meacham, even after the Modocs shot him. As the Indians were about to scalp him, Riddle yelled out that soldiers were coming, and the scalpers fled.
PBS flew Cloudt to Portland, Ore. for three days of shooting. “It was actually kind of fun,” said Cloudt. “The whole crew was so nice and just really put me at ease.”
The crew filmed for nine hours on one day. Instead of using a script, the crew instead coached Cloudt on questions to ask about the basket.
She filmed with Wes Cowan, who has also been on “Antiques Roadshow.”
Cloudt said she found it difficult to avoid looking at the camera.
“The director was also great. He told me I was a natural in front of a camera, but I think he probably tells all the guests that,” wrote Cloudt in an e-mail.
Cameramen filmed each scene from multiple angles. For instance, they filmed the sequence where Cowan ascends the steps of the associate director’s home, knocks on the door, and is greeted by Cloudt three times. Walking to the sofa and sitting down took another three takes.
“We drank lots of coffee and Wes peeled oranges for us and made jokes as the cameras and lights were reset for each take, and I was reminded a few times not to look at the camera,” wrote Cloudt.
The crew shot 18 rolls of film.
“It was a very unique experience,” said Cloudt. Did Toby Riddle weave the basket?
“I’m not supposed to divulge the answer to that,” said Cloudt. The show won’t air until August, although Cloudt doesn’t know the exact date.
“Toby Riddle was the first woman in the history of the country to get a war pension,” said Cloudt.
“I own a piece of history. It’s very exciting.”
Cloudt said she didn’t ask Cowan how much her basket is worth.
“I care and I have a pretty good idea,” said Cloudt.
“It’s like having a very valuable thing in your house and all of a sudden everybody knows it’s there.”
She says she’ll probably sell the basket for that reason.
But for now, Cloudt will come home from her days researching historical artifacts and look contentedly at her own piece of history.