tlingitbasket01
Rattle-top basket
1 of 45
tlingitbasket01a
Rattle-top basket lid
2 of 45
tlingitbasket01b
Rattle-top basket top
3 of 45
tlingitbasket02
Large carrying or storage basket
4 of 45
tlingitbasket02a
Large carrying or storage basket detail
5 of 45
tlingitbasket02b
Large carrying or storage basket start
6 of 45
tlingitbasket03
Small berry cup view one
7 of 45
tlingitbasket03a
Small berry cup view two
8 of 45
tlingitbasket03b
Small berry cup start
9 of 45
tlingitbasket04
Carrying or storage basket view one
10 of 45
tlingitbasket04a
Carrying or storage basket view two
11 of 45
tlingitbasket04b
Carrying or storage basket start
12 of 45
tlingitbasket05
Carrying or storage basket
13 of 45
tlingitbasket05a
Carrying or storage basket start
14 of 45
tlingitbasket05b
Carrying or storage basket detail
15 of 45
tlingitbasket06
Large carrying or storage basket
16 of 45
tlingitbasket06a
Large carrying or storage basket start
17 of 45
tlingitbasket06b
Large carrying or storage basket detail
18 of 45
tlingitbasket07
Basket-covered glass bottle view one
19 of 45
tlingitbasket07a
Basket-covered glass bottle start
20 of 45
tlingitbasket07b
Basket-covered glass bottle view two
21 of 45
tlingitbasket08
Open-twined, cross warp basket
22 of 45
tlingitbasket08a
Open-twined, cross warp basket start
23 of 45
tlingitbasket08b
Open-twined, cross warp basket detail
24 of 45
tlingitbasket09
Bowl or tray
25 of 45
tlingitbasket09a
Bowl or tray detail
26 of 45
tlingitbasket09b
Bowl or tray start
27 of 45
tlingitbasket10
Rattle-top basket view one
28 of 45
tlingitbasket10a
Rattle-top basket view two
29 of 45
tlingitbasket10b
Rattle-top basket top
30 of 45
tlingitbasket11
Carrying or storage basket
31 of 45
tlingitbasket11a
Carrying or storage basket start
32 of 45
tlingitbasket11b
Carrying or storage basket detail
33 of 45
tlingitbasket12
Large carrying or storage basket
34 of 45
tlingitbasket12a
Large carrying or storage basket detail
35 of 45
tlingitbasket12b
Large carrying or storage basket start
36 of 45
tlingitbasket13
Carrying or storage basket
37 of 45
tlingitbasket13a
Carrying or storage basket detail
38 of 45
tlingitbasket13b
Carrying or storage basket start
39 of 45
tlingitbasket14
Carrying or storage basket view one
40 of 45
tlingitbasket14a
Carrying or storage basket view two
41 of 45
tlingitbasket14b
Carrying or storage basket start
42 of 45
tlingitbasket15
Rattle-top basket
43 of 45
tlingitbasket15a
Rattle-top basket top
44 of 45
tlingitbasket15b
Rattle-top basket start
45 of 45

View the entire gallery or click the above images to enlarge.

The Tlingit of southeast Alaska have produced some of the finest examples of two-strand twining; their spruce root baskets exhibit bold geometric designs in warm hues of red, orange, yellow, and brown. In spring and fall, women collected the young roots of the Sitka Spruce, a tradition shared by both men and women today. The bark is peeled from the roots, which are left to cure over the summer. Then they are split and ready for weaving. The baskets are decorated in false embroidery, in which bleached, and often dyed grass is wrapped around the weft; the pattern is visible only on the outside of the basket. Natural dyes were obtained from local materials such as huckleberry, sulphuric mud, moss, hemlock bark, and alder bark steeped in urine. Commercial aniline dyes were popular as early as 1890, marking the beginning of the tourist trade era.

Utilitarian baskets were used to collect berries, roots, and shellfish for storage and for food preparation and serving. The flat-bottomed cylindrical berry basket is an older form. Large berry, or carrying baskets were worn on the back, and the smaller berry picking baskets emptied into them. Spruce root baskets are flexible and non-rigid; large berry baskets were often stored folded flat. Other forms include open-work strainers, plaques, cups, bowls, and rattle-top round boxes in which pebbles or lead shot were placed inside the lid. As the demand for made-for-sale baskets increased, Tlingit wove new forms, such as trays, teacups, and covered glass bottles.

Abstract designs often depict patterns observed in nature, such as the butterfly wing, whale’s teeth, path of the woodworm, tail of the raven, fern frond, and flying goose pattern. Realistic designs often portray animals. Other motifs represent aspects of Tlingit culture, such as tattoos and labrets, as well as patterns adopted from Euroamerican items, like Hudson Bay blankets and the Christian cross. The examples shown here highlight the variety of these forms and designs, both utilitarian and made-for-sale. Photography by Chris White, text by Elizabeth Kallenbach, and web development by Keith Hamm. Images © UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History. Production of this gallery was generously supported by The Ford Family Foundation.

Further Reading:

Paul, Frances Lackey
1944   Spruce Root Basketry of the Alaska Tlingit. [United States]: Education Division, U.S. Indian Service.

Dangel, Helen Dianne
2005   A Celebration of Weavers; Catalog of Weaver and Baskets of the Doris Borhauer Basket Collection, Sitka, Alaska. A project by the Sitka Tribe of Alaska through a Historic Preservation Grant from the National Park Service. The Donning Company Publishers.

Weber, Ronald L. and George Thornton Emmons
1986   Emmons's Notes on Field Museum's Collection of Northwest Coast Basketry. Fieldiana, N.S. No. 9. Chicago, Ill: Field Museum of Natural History.