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Contemporary Baskets

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The weaving of Native American Indian 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 American Indian 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 Indian basket as art began to be appreciated at the turn of the century. Always an important expression of Southwestern art, Indian 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!