Sacred Texts  Native American  California  Index  Previous  Next 


Basket weaving was the chief occupation of the squaws during the time not devoted to the collection and preparation of food, or other household duties. Baskets were made in many forms and sizes to suit the purpose for which they were intended. The principal woods used in the weaving of these useful and decorative articles were the withes of the willow and sour-berry bush, the red-bud, and the black fern root, the latter two furnishing the natural red and black which were the dominating colors of the designs, and which are woven into the baskets even now. Many of the designs on the baskets no doubt have some symbolical meaning which the Indians of today themselves do not know. With the exception of those on the hood of the baby basket where zigzag or diagonal stripes indicate a boy, and diamonds a girl baby, few, if any, of them are known.

There being no clay in the Valley from which to make cooking utensils, baskets were also used for this purpose. To make a good cooking basket fourteen inches in diameter and twelve inches deep requires about six months. The material must all be gathered in the proper season, dried, split and cured. The fern root and red-bud must

p. 108

then be soaked in water until it becomes pliant before the weaving may begin. When finished these baskets are entirely waterproof. The manner of their use in the preparation of food has already been described. Since the introduction by the white man of the metal implements of civilization, and the adoption by the Indians of a more modern style of cooking, the demand for baskets has practically ceased, and the industry of weaving them is rapidly dying out. A few old squaws, however, who cling to the old ways, still make such as they require for their own use, and a few others for sale. The comparatively high prices of the latter are accounted for by the long hours of tedious toil involved in the making, as compared with the money that could be earned during the same length of time in some less tiresome and more profitable occupation.

Next: Weapons