IACA Journal, Spring 2014 - page 6

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IACA Journal | Spring 2014
Seminole Baskets
the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum Collection
Beautiful baskets have been produced by skilled artisans of the
Seminole Tribe of Florida since the late 19th century, and the
Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum is proud to collect and preserve exam-
ples of this craft. Although baskets are just one type of artwork
produced by the Tribe, their diversity and evolution showcase
the resilience and innovation of Seminole artisans. This article
shows how baskets have changed to meet the needs of the Semi-
nole people for more than 100 years.
HISTORIC BASKETS
There are four types or shapes associated with Seminole basket-making prior to the
20th century. These include: berry baskets; pack baskets; basketry envelopes and sifting
trays. During the 20th century Seminole craftsmen and women produced coiled baskets
made from sweet grass for the tourist market and these baskets have become distinctive
examples of Seminole arts and crafts. Mid-century and contemporary basket makers
may have continued to weave berry, pack, envelope or sifting tray baskets, but there are
very few examples of these after 1940.
Historic baskets were made from either cane or saw palmetto with a rectangular or
square base and a circular double rim, and are generally constructed with a herringbone
or double diagonal weave. The base and
walls of the basket are formed from the
same weft and weave strips, and the two
rims or lips are added on to the top to
strengthen the basket. Older examples
of baskets are often cane, while more
recent examples of baskets are made
from palmetto. The change from cane to
palmetto may have been due to Seminole
migration into central and southern
Florida where palmetto fronds offered a
more durable material than cane. Sifting
baskets are short square baskets that can
be stacked on top of each other. One
basket has an open weave in the base to
allow smaller objects to pass to the tray
below.
Existing examples of berry baskets, pack
baskets and envelope baskets indicate
that Seminole people did make a variety
of baskets in the 19th century. Berry
baskets were small square shaped baskets
named for their function. The Museum
does not have any historic examples of
berry baskets, but does have a contem-
porary basket that is similar to the shape
of a berry basket. Modern Seminole
artist Pedro Zepeda has singlehandedly
revived historic basket traditions.
Pack baskets were larger baskets with a
flat square base, tall sides and a curved
rim. These were common among South-
eastern tribes. Envelope baskets were
made during the 1800’s through the early
This colorful late 20th century example of a coiled sweetgrass basket features a doll head on
the top (ATTK Catalog Number 2007-9-2).
Early 20th century open weave palmetto
basket, the top basket of a set of sifting
baskets (ATTK Catalog Number 1996-
39-14)
By Maia Dauner and Tara Backhouse, Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Seminole Indian Museum
1,2,3,4,5 7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,...20
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