Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Chitimacha Baskets

Down in the bayous of Louisiana, near Charenton, is the reservation belonging to an ancient tribe of Indians known as the Chitimacha. Contact with Europeans and their diseases had the usual tragic impact on their numbers and culture. But cultures are often remembered by their surviving artistic achievements, and the Chitimacha tradition of woven basketry is splendid. Because making these baskets is so labor-intensive, only a few still practice it.

The baskets are made of a local bamboo-like cane that is split with the teeth into fine strips. These are dyed black, red and yellow with other locally available bark and roots, and woven into complex, traditional patterns. Some are double-weave, and have an inner and outer pattern layer. The baskets are incredibly strong.

I almost never see them anymore, except in auction catalogs. Most of the photos here were lifted from old listings of the Neal Auction Co. in New Orleans.

I do love them.


  1. You have hit a big soft spot with me. Love baskets, especially Native American. These are beautiful. I went to the Apache Nation years ago and they had a wonderful display of enormous ancient baskets. My heart stopped. Here in Northern California they are known for making the tiniest baskets and decorating them with Quail feathers. I mean very very tiny. Myopic tiny. Thanks for posting these.

  2. Yes, those Pomo baskets with quail feathers - great! And Chumash baskets are sublime, as well as Washo. Above you, the Tlingit, Klikitat, Inupiat, for texture and inventive designs. I'm so glad you enjoy them, too.

  3. I did an internship at the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian - I know, not very PC -and they had exquisite baskets. There also was an exhibit about the Metis, who are related to the tribes that mixed it up with the Creoles in Louisiana before canoeing north to Canada that was really amazing.

  4. There is so much to learn, isn't there?

  5. Okay, well I think it would be cool to work at any part of the Smithsonian, especially the Native American part. I'd just stand and stare...drooling.

    Last year I had plans to go to the small museum at the tourist site near the California/Oregon border called "Trees of Mystery" because I'd seen on tv that they have a really nice Native American basket display. I've driven by the place so many times and never stopped. This year I'm getting there come hell or high water: http://www.treesofmystery.net/

  6. Looks like a visit would be well worthwhile. Private museums are so much a reflection of an individual vision, and that it's free - well, good for her.