Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge



shéiyi xaat kákgu “spruce-root basket”
Language: Lingít

When you’re dealing with spruce root you really show respect not just to the trees but to the ground around them.... When you’re getting your roots the first thing you say is, “My ancestors were here, and my great-grandchildren will be here, so we’re going to be real careful how we get our roots. And we’re only going to take a little bit.”

—Delores Churchill, 2005

The mother of the Children of the Sun is said to have woven the first spruce-root basket, in which she and her offspring were lowered to Earth. The northern Tlingit were renowned for tightly woven baskets that were “just like wood” in their rigidity and strength. This basket has a classic watertight weave with three-strand twining added around the rim for strength. Weavers inserted dyed grasses, maidenhair fern, and other plant materials into the weft to make decorative patterns. The “blanket-border” pattern comes from Hudson’s Bay Company trade blankets.

Culture: Tlingit
Region: Southeast Alaska
Object Category: Baskets, bags, boxes
Dimensions: Length 41.5cm
Accession Date: 1927
Source: Fredrick W. Skiff (seller)
Museum: National Museum of the American Indian
Museum ID Number: 156615.000