Information about Native American Baskets
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Native American baskets were one of the earliest art forms made by prehistoric Indians. They were made as utilitarian pieces for storage, holding water and even cooking. Basket making is an ancient craft. Basket making preceded pottery making, so baskets that were used for cooking were lined with clay, and water vessels were covered with pine pitch. Today basket making has developed into a fine art, that few Native Americans continue to practice. Where baskets were once a common item among all tribes, the art has now disappeared among many Native American tribes, and the handful of weavers that continue this ancient craft are few and far between!
The Papago or Tohono O'odham people of Southern Arizona produce the most baskets of any tribe today. They do a coil and "split stitch" style using indigenous plants such as yucca, bear grass, and devil's claw. The techniques of basket weaving used today are identical to their prehistoric ancestors. Since the Papagos produce the most baskets they are generally more reasonable than other tribes. However, one must consider the time and patience involved in this craft. The weaver must first gather his or her own natural materials to be used. If any dying of colors is to be done, natural vegetable dyes are used. All of this occurs before the basket weaving begins. The Hopi tribe located in Northern Arizona are well known for their fine coiled and wicker plaques. The Hopi continue to make their traditional baskets, however, many of them are made for personal use in dances and ceremonies and are not made to sell. The Southern Ute and the Navajo are excellent weavers, but the numbers of weavers in these tribes are dwindling as the younger members of the tribes are not continuing to learn the weaving techniques. The San Carlos Apache still make a burden basket which was originally made to be worn on the back to carry items gathered such as berries, etc. A few weavers from other tribes such as the Paiute, Pima, Washoe, Jicarilla Apache still carry on the tradition of this craft, but the sad reality is that it is becoming a dying art.
A favorite among basket collectors is the "Navajo Wedding Basket". Originated by the Paiutes and adopted by the Navajo, it is a tightly coiled basket with a herringbone stitch edge. Used for ceremonial purposes, mainly weddings it is woven tightly enough, that a sacred cornmeal porridge may be poured into the basket for use in the wedding rites. "Shipapu" opening is believed to let the spirits from the underworld out and to allow more births into the upper world. These baskets are getting harder to come by, since they are a favorite among the Navajo people and many are kept for personal use.
As you browse our basket selection you will notice that designs used in the baskets depict the area and culture of the makers. The desert dwelling Papagos use lizards, tortoises, horses, and water designs. The Hopi use kachinas, deer, eagles, corn and other symbols which play a significant role in their every day lives. We have a selection of contemporary baskets as well as older baskets. Prices will vary depending on age, weaving technique, pattern, availability etc. Each basket is a unique hand made piece of Native American history.