Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

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

If you harvest for one hour getting spruce roots, you’re going to cook them for one hour and you’re going to be splitting for eight hours.

—Delores Churchill, 2005

Northern Tlingit women traditionally wove strong, tight baskets from spruce roots that they gathered in the forest, and the art continues today. The roots are heated in a fire, stripped of their bark, split into thin strands, and then softened in water for weaving. Weavers insert dyed grasses and maidenhair fern to create patterns like “winding around,” which fills the central band of this basket and derives from porcupine-quill designs seen on Athabascan clothing. The outer bands include a stepped pattern inspired by glacially-carved benches on the sides of mountains, and tipped H-shaped designs that represent traditional hand tattoos.

Culture: Tlingit
Region: Southeast Alaska
Object Category: Baskets, bags, boxes
Dimensions: Diameter 31cm
Accession Date: ca. 1983
Source: Duane Michals (donor)
Museum: National Museum of the American Indian
Museum ID Number: 251697.000