Basket weaving is an art form of functional beauty for many cultures. A single basket might find use in a variety of ways from gathering and cooking to religious ceremony and gifting. This basket is a representative of the skilled work of members of the Akimel O’odham (meaning People of the River) or as the Spanish first called them, the Pima of Arizona.
Some indicators are its coiled design, starting off at the center that ripple out in successive threading. The threads or material used here would be plant fiber from area grasses and the herb Devil’s Claw. The Devil’s Claw is represented in the darker colors at the center and whirling design that radiates. The geometric designs captivated collectors and a large tourist trade developed in the 1900s. The maze-like form is a frequent design that reflects the travels made to find the dream or goal at the center.
Represented today across three sovereignties of the Gila River Pima-Maricopa, Salt River, and Ak-Chin Reservations, (all near Phoenix, Arizona) the Pima are descendants of the southwest’s masters of irrigation. Still visible today are the cut veins of canals dug by hand a thousand years ago that transported Gila and Salt River water to feed a fertile agricultural landscape in the desert.
Along with others in the collection, this basket is an item purchased in the early 20th century when many Pima turned to trade to make a living. As an object in our care, it is repurposed from its original function to be a connector of river culture.