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Contemporary Native American Baskets

The weaving of Native American baskets is one of the oldest of Indian art forms. Fragments of baskets and other weavings are found in the earliest Pueblo sites of the Anasazi, or “ancient ones” who vanished mysteriously leaving behind their empty dwellings, petroglyphs, and remnants of their pottery and baskets. Most agree that the Anasazi were the predecessors of today’s modern Pueblo Indians. Originally Native American baskets were utilitarian; used for cooking, carrying, winnowing, storage, and ceremony. But as with all utilitarian items of the Native Americans, baskets were also an expression of individual art as well as tribal identity. Being made of organic materials, few of these early Navajo baskets survive and few modern basket weavers retain the skills to make them. Indian baskets of today are woven in much the same way as they were a thousand years ago using native materials such as yucca, devil’s claw, willow, and grasses. The tools have also little changed being primarily the awl and the hands of the artisan. The Native American basket as art began to be appreciated at the turn of the century. Always an important expression of Southwestern art, antique Navajo baskets traditionally made for ceremony, like the Navajo Wedding Basket, began to find their way into homes around the world. Almost all of the Southwestern Native American tribes wove baskets. The basketry of the Havasupai tribe in the Grand Canyon is well known for its technical excellence, although no Havasupai weave baskets today. The Apache basket trays and ollas are also prime examples of the basketry skill of the past. Many Apache still weave baskets, primarily their beautiful Apache burden baskets still used for important ceremonies as well as for gifts and for trade. The Pima and Papago basket art of Southern Arizona is still carried on. The Papago, now known as the Tohono O’odham continue this basket making tradition. Many fine Hopi basket weavers are still creating beautiful works of art, little changed in design and function for hundreds of years!

Antique Navajo Baskets

The Native American basket is perhaps the oldest invention of Native American culture. Fragments of baskets and other weavings are found in the earliest sites of the “ancient ones”, those peoples thought to be the predecessors of today’s modern Puebloans who left their dwellings and mysterious painted symbols on stone and vanished. Originally utilitarian, Native American Indian baskets were used for cooking, carrying, and storage, but as with all utilitarian items of the Native Americans, they were also an expression of art and Tribal identity. At the turn of the century, Native American Indian baskets began to be woven for trade as well as for tribal ceremony. Being made of organic materials, few antique Native American Indian baskets survive. Today there are few practicing Indian basket weavers who retain these skills and even they will tell you that they are unable to create a basket as fine as the antique Indian baskets of old. In the Southwest, some of the most elegant were those of the Apache and Pima woven in tray or olla shapes using native plant material for the frame and weave. The Cameron Trading Post specializes in antique Native American Indian baskets of the Southwest such as Apache trays and Apache ollas, Pima trays, and basketry of the Tohono O'odham, Chemehuevi, Hualapai, and Havasupai of the Grand Canyon. Antique Indian baskets are prized for their excellence as well as their colour, patina, and designs that may trace their history back to the very dawn of Native American ancestry.