Object: Basket

E_1982_11_403E/1982/11/403

Pomo Tribes: Feather Basket
North America
Early 20th Century
Materials: Feathers, Grasses

This object is a Pomo feather basket from the early 1900s. The “Pomo” name was originally ascribed to Indian tribes living in the area of present day California during the turn of the century, though researchers have since noted that over 70 different groups were represented by the name. Basketry techniques and styles were similar among the groups, however, especially in the production of feather baskets. This basket is small and measures only 3 inches wide (about the size of a baseball). It features a coiled construction– formed by small bundles of grasses stitched into a spiral to create the round shape and coiled body of the basket.

meadowlarkThe yellow feathers on the basket come from the Western Meadowlark (see figure left). The Western Meadowlark is a North American species of the blackbird family. It lives in grassland areas primarily west of the Great Plains. The red feathers on the basket come from the Acorn Woodpecker (see figure right). The Acorn Woodpecker is a species of woodpecker that lives in the western and southwestern portions of the United States. AcornWoodpecker1LRPomo baskets are produced by both men and women. Basketmakers collect the bright yellow feathers of the meadowlark and the small red feathers of the woodpecker with respect and reverence for the birds. In fact, many Pomo basketmakers, such as Mabel McKay, regard feather baskets as living entities in themselves and are careful to honor the spirit of the baskets. Just like the birds represented in the baskets, Pomo feather baskets are unique and come in many different types. They serve a variety of purposes and have been produced for ceremonial and religious contexts, daily use, and even tourism.

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

[Lauren Simons]

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