Woven Identities

Two Bowls and a Tray by Unknown Akimel O'odham Makers
Two Bowls and a Tray by Unknown Akimel O'odham Makers

The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe, New Mexico, tells the stories of the Native American people of the Southwest from pre-historic through contemporary times. For the first time in over 30 years, the museum will host a major exhibition of North American Indian baskets. The exhibition will run from Sunday, November 20, 2011 through May 1, 2014.

All objects tell a story, if you know the right questions to ask. At the time the baskets in this exhibition were collected little to no information was recorded; the weaver’s names are largely unknown. Nonetheless, each basket has an identity, a woven identity. The identity of each basket—where it was made; when it was made; who made it; who it was made for; why it was made—by “reading” its individual characteristics.

To read a basket five principal traits must be taken into account: material, construction, form and design, and utility. Woven Identities is divided into five sections representing these essential and diagnostic Native American basketry traits. If you ever wanted to learn the language of baskets, begin your journey with this exhibition.

Tlingit Cylinder, c. 1920, Makah Lidded bowl, c. 1970,  Lower Klamath River Woman’s cap, c. 1920,  Tlingit Jar with rattle lid, c. 1909
Tlingit Cylinder, c. 1920, Makah Lidded bowl, c. 1970,
Lower Klamath River Woman’s cap, c. 1920,
Tlingit Jar with rattle lid, c. 1909

On exhibit are baskets woven by artists representing 60 cultural groups, today referred to as tribes, bands, or pueblos. The weavers’ ancestral lands are in six culture areas of Western North America: The Southwest, Great Basin, Plateau, California, the Northwest Coast, and the Arctic.

Baskets can be functional. Burden baskets were for carrying. The improbable task of cooking was done in baskets—heated stones were added to food and liquid contents in meal preparation. Water was carried and clams collected in others. Baskets also served as hats (especially, but not exclusively, to the tourist trade).

Yet, function does not trump beauty. Basket making techniques are inherently attractive. Among the baskets on view are examples of false embroidery, cross weave, plaiting, and coiling. Materials like wrapped twine, corn husk, roots, rhizomes, stems, branches, leaves, grass, and cedar bark add their own good looks.

Of the 241 baskets in the exhibition, only 45 have been attributed to individual artists. Woven Identities honors those weavers and the many others whose names we do not yet know.

San Carlos Apache Carrying basket, c. 1925
San Carlos Apache Carrying basket, c. 1925

Location: The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture is located on Museum Hill™, Camino Lejo off Old Santa Fe Trail.

Information: 505-476-1269 or visit www.indianartsandculture.org

The Museum of Indian Arts & Culture/Laboratory of Anthropology is a unit of the Museum of New Mexico. All four Museum of New Mexico museums—which include the Museum of International Folk Art, the New Mexico Museum of Art, and the Palace of the Governors— are open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, the Museums are also open Mondays from 10am-5pm.

Woven Identities Opening Events

10am - 4pm, Terry DeWald of Terry DeWald American Indian Art will have
a basket trunk show with more than 75 baskets for sale.

12 - 4pm, Basket Making Demonstration by Haida Weaver Jacinthe Two
Bulls. She will give a short talk on her craft at 12:30pm.

2 - 3pm, Identifying Baskets of the Western United States: Tribes,
Materials, and Motifs, a talk by Terry DeWald on materials used in
basket making.

The exhibit opens Sunday, November 20, 2011 and closes April 14, 2014.

Admission to the opening is free to NM residents with ID on Sundays;
all others $9. Under 18 always free.

For more information about the opening the public may call

For comprehensive coverage of basketry news, events and a directory of resources, visit BasketMakers.com.

Please mention your interest in basketry in your friend request.

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