Pomo and Skoskomish Basketry

The picture of the women and her baskets is representative of some of the forms of basketry made by Native Americans in the Western part of the country during the early 19th century. Woven basketry was a significant cultural aspect for these tribes. The baskets were almost exclusively made by women. Settlers in California encouraged native women to continue to create woven baskets and those who wanted to increase trade and travel in Alaska often used “exotic” native images to entice travelers. The increased tourist trade caused the natives to change from twined to coiled basketry, and designs became increasingly colorful and complex. Color choice was important to the Pomo of California, who use willow shoots, porcupine quills, feathers, and shells as decoration. Green feathers came from mallards and represent astuteness or discretion; blue jay feathers mean cunning; white meant generosity and riches, and they came from the white kaia. Basket making of the Skokomish tribe from Washington was a spiritual act done by women, associated with the powerful being Crow, whose “baskets turned into shells and the basket designs became the patterns of the shells.” The “V” pattern is called “salmon gills.” Designs were geometric, with lots of horizontal and diagonal lines and zig zags; basket makers later began incorporating animal patterns such as dogs and wolves to suit colonist tastes.

This basket is very different from the red and black wood splint baskets from what is now New England. Scholars disagree about how much wood splint basketry in the area was influenced by colonist interests.


Crawford, Virginia. “Artistic Basketry of the North American Indian.” The Bulletin of the

Cleveland Museum of Art 73, no. 7 (1986): 278-297.

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