Native American Baskets

Native American basketry has enjoyed a long and consistent popularity among prehistoric and contemporary native populations of the Southwest. Though the use of baskets has transcended many levels of culture, from strictly utilitarian to social and ceremonial situations, native peoples of the Southwest have maintained this art form that has not altered significantly for hundreds of years. Even plant materials used in basketry today (yucca, rabbit brush, sumac, and willow) have been found preserved in many archaeological sites. The oldest examples of southwestern basketry in existence show three distinct methods of construction that still characterize the craft today. They are wicker (including twining), plaiting, and coiling.

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Wicker baskets tend to be the most colorful depicting stylized forms of life, eagles, butterflies, turtles, and much more. A form of wicker work found on the Colorado Plateau is twining. Twining is the earliest known basketry technique. It has been recovered from Desert Culture sites dating as far back as 7000 B.C. and is still used prolifically today.

Hopi Coil Basket      Butterfly_Basket_5106bd63a4a56.jpg      Navajo Wedding Basket      Coil_Basket_51896ff9a7f93.jpg

Plaiting is the easiest and simplest weave to produce. It is also the least expensive of the three basket techniques to construct. Plaiting on the Colorado Plateau is limited to the Hopi, who produce plaited yucca baskets on wooden or metal rings.

Coiling, producing the greatest variety of form and design, is considered to be the most important of the southwestern basketry techniques. Coiled baskets are the most time-consuming to make, so they are usually the most expensive. Today, it is the principal manufacturing technique of the southwestern tribes.

Indian basketry is a wonderful illustration of patience and inventive genius, using nature's materials and shaping them into useful and beautiful forms. The very knowledge of gathering, processing, storing, and utilizing plants suitable for basketry is a skill in its own right, and has been passed down through the centuries from one generation to the next.