Object: Basket


Pima Tribe: Basket
North America
c. 1930
Materials: Devil’s Claw, Willow, Grass

This is a double-necked basket from the Pima (Akimel O’Odham) tribe in present day Arizona. Pima baskets are known for their fine detail and tightly woven materials that make them waterproof without the aid of tar or sealant. This basket is woven from devil’s claw, willow, and grasses. It contains a geometric pattern and measures approximately 13″ x 6″ x 7″.

The devil’s claw plays an important role in the production of Native American basketry. The naturally dark color of the devil’s claw is often used to weave contrasting designs on the body of the basket. Gathering the devil’s claws, however, can be a dangerous task! Devil’s claws have W.P. Armstrong 2009sharp ends and can easily puncture or poke if picked up the wrong way (see picture). The use of devil’s claw plants in basketry requires skill and patience–something Anna Moore Shaw learned at a young age. Anna Moore Shaw was a Pima woman born in the late 1800s. She wrote an autobiography describing growing up as a Pima girl and learning the art of Pima basket making. She explains how the process began with gathering the materials for production. It could take several weeks and involve many members of the tribe to gather all the materials needed for basket making. Once gathered, the materials had to be prepared. The devil’s claw, for example, had to be placed in water to soften the thorns and then stripped with a sharp awl (a tool like the one seen here). The grasses were separated and the cattail were split by the basket weaver’s teeth! Then the baskets were created, with woven patterns representing flowers (such as the squash blossom seen here) or spiritual elements (such as the geometric design seen here).

What do you think about the designs on this basket? Share your thoughts and enjoy getting to know the Story Behind the Object!

[Lauren Simons]

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Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.


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