Object: Tray

Hopi: Basket Tray
North America
c. 1930
Materials: Grasses, Yucca, Devil’s Claw

This object is a basket tray made by the Hopi Indians of northern Arizona. The Hopi people are considered coilone of the oldest indigenous tribes of North America. The term “Hopi” comes from the name Hopituh Shi-nu-mu, which means “The Peaceful People.” Hopi are known for their production of high-quality art such as dolls, jewelry, ceramic, and baskets. This basket tray is made of a primary coil of grasses and a secondary coil of yucca, willow, and devils claw. There is a small handle on the top of the tray for hanging the basket in a display or as a plaque on the wall. The design on the basket is a pictorial of a Kachina or Katsina figure woven in devil’s claw. The devil’s claw is an integral part of the artistic design.


Yellow-flowered perennial devil's claw blossom.

There are literally thousands of species of beautiful wildflowers in North America, but some of the loveliest and most interesting are called devil’s claws. They produce bizarre seed-pods that attach to the feet and legs of large animals, and include some of the largest hitchhiker fruits in the world.


Seed capsules - Proboscidea althaeifolia (Benth.) Decne.

The devil’s claw fruit is technically a drupaceous capsule with a woody inner part surrounded by a fleshy layer. The rather sinister common name of “devil’s claw” refers to the inner woody capsule that splits open at one end into two curved horns or claws. Each capsule contains about 40 black seeds that are gradually released when the claws split apart.


[Loree Mcdonald and 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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