OBJECT OF THE MONTH - November, 2007

Miniature Makah Basket

Miniature Makah basket woven around 1920 (UCM 22459).

This miniature basket was made by a member of the Makah Tribe around 1920, and was donated to the museum by Gaee Schwarz in 1970. The Makah Tribe is located in Neah Bay on the western-most tip of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, and is part the Northwest Coast cultural group.

Northwest Coast groups never produced pottery but, instead, wove baskets. Makah women were known for their weaving skills and created baskets for use in everyday life. Women wove baskets of different sizes and shapes for gathering activities and food storage. They even created baskets that could hold water and were used for cooking. Although cedar was the favorite material for weaving, cherry bark, cedar root, cattail, and spruce root were also used. Women used these plant fibers not only to weave baskets, but also to create items such as mats and waterproof hats.
The creation of a basket is very time consuming and involves many processes. First, raw materials are gathered. Next they are processed to the proper consistency, and fibers are often dyed. Then the actual weaving occurs. Because of the amount of time involved, basket products declined greatly once mass-produced goods were obtained through trade with Westerners. Today basket production is primarily for the tourist industry.
To learn more about the Makah Tribe, visit their website at makah.com.