Tohono O’odham: Coiled Basket
Materials: Grasses, Yucca, Devil’s Claw
This is a Tohono O’odham basket coiled in the shape of a duck. The Tohono O’odham currently reside in southwest Arizona and northern Mexico, though historically they occupied a much larger land base known as the Papagueria. For this reason, the Tohono O’odham were often referred to as “Papago” tribes by early European settlers.
This basket measures approximately 10 inches long and 4 inches high. It is constructed from grasses, yucca, and devil’s claw and features closed-coil stitching. In closed-coil stitching, the coiled grasses are completely covered by the outer stitch and are not visible through the stitching. Baskets made with closed-coil stitching require more time and detail than those bound together with open stitches. In this basket, strips of white yucca cover the coils of grasses that make up the body of the duck. Additionally, dark strips of devil’s claw are used to stitch a geometric design into the basket.
While Tohono O’odham baskets are used to carry things and prepare food, this basket was probably made for the tourist market. Basketmakers can spend days, if not weeks, on the production of a single basket. Common techniques used in Tohono O’odham basketmaking include stitching horizontal lines, parallel lines, and vertical frets as seen here. More baskets like this one are expected to be displayed at SNOMNH in the coming spring; plan a visit and enjoy getting to know the Story Behind the Object!