Native American Heritage Month – Trade Baskets

This week for #NativeAmericanHeritageMonth, we’re talking about trade baskets. These particular examples were made by Mary Dalton, a Stillwater Paiute woman, in the early 20th century. Mary and her husband, Jack, lived near Stillwater with their children.

Wuzzie George, Paiute elder, stirring something in a basket.

Willow baskets have countless traditional uses in Paiute culture. They’re light, are made of easily-available materials, and can be waterproofed. In Stillwater, basketmakers dyed willow strands in the marsh’s soil. This gave those strands a rich brown color, which were used to create designs.

Baskets have also served as a trade good since time immemorial. Through networks of trade based on neighbors trading with neighbors, goods such as the seashells pictured here moved hundreds of miles across America thousands of years before the first wagon train. Trade baskets played a vital role in these exchanges.

Beads from Hidden Cave, ca 1500 BC

Beaded baskets are a much more recent invention, originating in the early 20th century as a good that could be sold to Euro-Americans. Today, beaded baskets are sold or given as gifts both within Native communities and to outsiders. These examples were made by Betty Rogers of Schurz.

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