California Indian Baskets – part 5

September 9, 2014

 

This chrysalis attached to a branch represents the pupal stage when a butterfly undergoes its metamorphosis. The California Indian basket makers seemed to emulate nature when they engineered baskets.

This chrysalis attached to a branch represents the pupal stage when a butterfly undergoes its metamorphosis. The California Indian basket makers seemed to emulate nature when they engineered baskets.

California Indian artistry was reflected in pragmatic ways with their fine nets for carrying burdens, trapping birds and fish. A Pomo burden net made of Indian hemp Apocynum cannabinum fiber cordage with trade Coast Miwok clamshell beads would have held a burden basket, and was used to transport things on an individual’s back using the headband to balance the load. Baskets were used to gather, prepare, store, and serve food. Coiled baskets made from slender willow branches were stitched into place with fine threads made from the underground rhizomes of the sedge plant. The warp and weft, and coiling were terms connected transferring knowledge for making coiled cooking baskets, basket hoppers and coiled cups. Large tightly woven-cooking baskets made from roots that were soaked efficiently hold water to withstand basket boiling to cook acorn mush and other foods. The hopper basket mortar was placed on the ground and the hopper basket constructed from small nicely scraped coiled shoots was placed on top. Water and acorn meal were placed into the basket then hot rocks were dropped in, bringing the content to a boil within minutes.

Burden Baskets were used for food gathering and transporting things. This one features a headband decorated with shell beads like ones made by Coast Miwok that were used in trading.

Burden Baskets were used for food gathering and transporting things. This one features a headband decorated with shell beads like ones made by Coast Miwok that were used in trading.

San Francisco Bay Area tribes prized cylindrical shell beads. Clamshell bead currency conveyed a pragmatic aesthetic value in daily items such as baskets and nets as well as sacred meaning in ceremonial rites that transcended the dominant abstract notion of paper or coin currency. Beyond being used as money (a medium of exchange), clamshell discs reflected value that was generally accepted or in vogue; within the context of time and place it reflected a quality of being and abundance that was widely accepted and circulated from person to person. Clam disc beads manufactured by the Coast Miwok were discovered at cremation sites at Olompali in Marin County suggesting that baskets embellished with these beads were burned with the dead.

Once California Indians entered the Mission systems, they lost the ability to gather and cultivate native plants needed to make baskets, they also lost access to the foods that they had evolved with. This is an example of a burden net made with hemp.

Once California Indians entered the Mission systems, they lost the ability to gather and cultivate native plants needed to make baskets, they also lost access to the foods that they had evolved with. This is an example of a burden net made with hemp.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: