Plateau Flat Bags

The Maryhill Museum located near Goldendale, Washington, has a display of Plateau flat bags. The Plateau Culture Area is the area between the Cascade Mountains and the Rocky Mountains in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia, and Western Montana. From north to south it runs from the Fraser River in the north to the Blue Mountains in the south. Much of the area is classified as semi-arid. Part of it is mountainous with pine forests in the higher elevations.

Continue reading

Klickitat Baskets

Long before the European invasion of North America, a number of autonomous, independent, and linguistically related peoples lived in contiguous territories in what would become the state of Washington. These peoples included the Yakama, Kittitas, Klikitat (also spelled Klickitat), Tainapam, and Wanapam. In 1855, the United States government forced a treaty on these people, grouping them together on what would become the Yakama Reservation and later forming the Consolidated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation.

Continue reading

Pomo Baskets in the Maryhill Museums

California Indian baskets are often considered the best in North America, and Pomo baskets are generally considered to be the best of the California baskets. In his book Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes, Carl Waldman reports:

“The Pomos created their beautiful baskets for functional purposes, but collectors now value them as works of fine art. In some Pomo baskets, the weaving is so tight that a microscope is needed to count the stitches.”

Continue reading

Plateau Basketry Hats and Trinket Baskets

In looking at American Indian art, there is a different between tribal art and ethnic art. In his book Native Arts of North America, Christian Feest writes:

“Tribal art was (and is) produced by members of tribal societies primarily for their own or their fellow members’ use.”

One of the classic examples of tribal art is seen in the Plateau basketry hats. The Plateau Culture Area is the area between the Cascade Mountains and the Rocky Mountains in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia, and Western Montana. From north to south it runs from the Fraser River in the north to the Blue Mountains in the south. These hats were woven for and used by the women of the tribe.

As tourists began to discover the Plateau area, Indian artists became making basketry items specifically for sale to Non-Indian tourists. These small trinket baskets are a classic example of ethnic: tourists buy and cherish them because they were made by Indian arts, but they are not items which would have been traditionally used by the Indians who made them.

The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center in The Dalles, Oregon has displays of Columbia River basketry hats and small trinket baskets.

Basketry Hats

According to the Museum display:

“Native women of the Mid-Columbia have worn twined basketry hats for generations. Known as Patl’aapa, the hats provided protection from the elements, as well as comfort for cradle boards and gathering basket support straps worn around the forehead. The hats distinguished social hierarchy and expressed personal or family identity. As the tradition of basket making diminished, the basketry hat became a symbol of heritage reserved for special occasions.”

P1080702 P1080698 P1080699 P1080701

Trinket Baskets

These small trinket baskets were made by Native woman for trade to non-Natives, primarily tourists.

P1080696b P1080689 P1080690 P1080691 P1080692 P1080693 P1080694 P1080696a

Pat Courtney Gold’s Baskets

Basketry is probably the oldest art form, although the archaeological record is devoid of the earliest basketry. In his 1904 book American Indian Basketry, Otis Mason writes:

“In ultimate structure, basketry is free-hand mosaic or, in the finest materials, like pen-drawings or beadwork, the surface being composed of any number of small parts—technically decussations, stitches, or meshes, practically separate from one another so far as the effect on the eye is concerned.”

Continue reading

The Northern Pacific Railroad and the Sioux

Almost since the foundation of the United States, the westward expansion of the country was guided by Manifest Destiny, the idea that it was the country’s destiny to span the continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific. By the middle of the nineteenth century, it was clearly evident that the way of westward expansion would have to involve railroads which could then transport raw materials (minerals, timber, cattle, grain) from the west to the east and manufactured goods from the east to the west.

Continue reading

America’s Christian General and the Nez Perce

As a Christian nation, the United States has never been comfortable with the idea that American Indians might have their own non-Christian religions or that Indian spiritual leaders could provide role-models for other Indians. Under the European notion of the Discovery Doctrine, the United States felt that it had a legal right to rule over non-Christian nations and to convert them to Christianity.

Continue reading

A Very Short Overview of the O’odham Indians

The Sonoran Desert which stretches across part of the present-day American state of Arizona and the Mexican state of Sonora is an area of very hot summers (high temperatures may reach 120° F) and relatively little rain. It was here that a culture called Hohokam by archaeologists flourished from 300 BCE until about 1400 CE. The Hohokam were village agriculturalists who developed a sophisticated canal system to bring water to their crops in this desert environment.

Continue reading

A Brief Overview of the Omaha Indians

The Central Plains is the portion of the Great Plains which lies south of the South Dakota-Nebraska border and north of the Arkansas River. It includes Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, southeastern Wyoming, and western Colorado. After migrating from the Ohio River valley, the Siouan-speaking Omaha settled in what is now Nebraska. The name Omaha is generally said to mean “upstream, against the flow.”

Continue reading

A Very Brief Overview of California’s Achumawi Indians

The aboriginal homelands of the Achumawi (also spelled Achomawi, Achomowi, Achemawi) people of North America was along the drainage of the Pit River between the Warner Range and Mount Shasta and Mount Lassen in present-day California. Achumawi villages were located along the Pit River or its tributary streams. The Achumawi villages, whose names were not recorded in the historical records, do not appear to have been politically united.

Linguistically, the Achumawi language, together with the Atsugewi language, form the Palahnihan branch of the Hokan language family.

Continue reading

The Salish Language Family

The Salish language family is found on the Northwest Coast and in the Columbia Plateau. Salish is generally felt to have great antiquity in the Northwest Coast. Salish-speakers were the earliest settlers in the Fraser River area of British Columbia. Linguists estimate that this language family may be 6,000 years old, although some feel it may be as young as 3,000 years old.

Continue reading

Some Apache Ceremonies

Traditionally, Apache religious ceremonies focused on curing, hunting and gathering rituals, puberty ceremonies, and obtaining personal power and protection. While spiritual power is available to most people, spiritual leaders–usually called medicine men and medicine women–are people who have greater access to spiritual power than other people.

Continue reading