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basket which was originally made to be worn on the back to carry items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