American Indian Baskets (Apache)
Apache Burden Basket
Artist: ApacheDescription: Unknown Artist
Contemporary Apache Burden Baskets such as the one shown here are typically used for ceremonial or ornamental purposes. The tassels are often made from cow or deer hides and the tin, though now decorative, were once thought to ward off snakes while functioning as a utilitarian piece when foraging for food, cultivating crops, collecting firewood and even hauling water. And when male suitors were granted permission for a female’s hand in marriage by her mother, it is said that husband’s-to-be, alerted by the rattling of the tin cones, would know that he wasn’t to look at his future mother-in-law as an ultimate act of respect.
Apache Olla Basket
Artist: ApacheDescription: In the foreground, this early Apache olla, circa 1880, presents with a prehistoric ceramic motif consisting of six horizontal zigzag bands against a black devil’s claw field that progresses toward the neck while the neck consists of checkered and cross elements. It was woven with willow and devil’s claw over a three-rod foundation. It measures 13 ½” x 13 ½”.
The Apache olla behind, circa 1900, is a well-balanced basket both in design and form, starting with an eight-pointed star at the base and followed by a heavily terraced diagonal motif going from left to right and from the base to the rim. Two rows of spaced coyote tracks grace the shoulder. It too was woven with willow and devil’s claw over a three-rod foundation. It stands 20 ½”h and has an 18” diameter.
Artist: ApacheDescription: (Circa 1920) | 18” Diameter
This 18” Apache Tray, circa 1920, features an elaborate unfolding of a five-pointed star done in devil’s claw at its base, then willow and again outlined in devil’s claw which formed the illusion of stylized arrowheads inside the black field. Fine checkered elements add to the basket’s appeal as do the sharp double tips at the end of the five petals. Five deer balance the motif at the rim. This tray was woven over a three-rod foundation.
Artist: ApacheDescription: Willow & Devil’s Claw (Circa 1920) | Dimensions: 21 3/8” diameter x 4 ¾” deep
If you haven’t visited, the Native American Basket collection alone is certain to delight and amaze you with its quality and depth. There are over 350 baskets on display at any given time.
This selection spans 21 3/8” across and 4 ¾” deep. This Apache tray, circa 1920’s, begins with a seven-pointed star at its base and eleven pairs of human figures and dogs circle the star. Seventeen additional human figures and over twenty dogs complete the rim. It is woven with willow and devil’s claw over a three-rod foundation.
Artist: ApacheDescription: Basket (Circa 1890) | 19” Diameter
Woven with willow and devil’s claw over a three-rod foundation, this magnificent geometrically terraced Apache tray is very finely woven, especially for its size. Five rows form a maze-like pattern and the final two rows below the rim have diamonds placed between the terraces.
Artist: ApacheDescription: Basket (Circa 1900) | 20” Diameter
This Apache tray was woven with willow and devil’s claw over a three-rod foundation. A five-pointed star divides vertical botanical elements, possibly cornstalks, upward to the rim. These unique designs also resemble feathers. Above the points on the star are two vertical squares with a pair of dogs to the left and right of the higher square just below the rim.
Artist: ApacheDescription: (1900) | 15”d x 19.5”w
Apache Olla Basket
Artist: ApacheDescription: (1885) | The basket starts with a five-pointed star at the base and forms diamonds with men and horses within. A third of the way up from the basket base, the field becomes more open and within the five massive black diamonds there are men, horses, crosses and various geometric elements. More crosses and random diagonal lines decorate the mouth. Willow, devil’s claw, over three-rod foundation.
This large Apache Olla Basket displayed was once gifted to one of Arizona’s most notable female pioneers, Cordelia Crawford. The story has been told many times and as we understand it, Cordelia was somewhat of a pediatrician. This fact became well known throughout the region. In as much as Cordelia and her family settled in the area just outside of present day Globe, the Apache women would lay their sick children in front of Cordelia’s home. She would take them in, nurse them to good health and place them back outside once they were well enough to return. During that time as Apache raiding parties would traverse the eastern part of Arizona, the Crawford Ranch was never breached in deference to her.
At some point, Cordelia acquired this beautiful Apache basket and it had remained in the Crawford family and was passed on for many years. It wasn’t until very recent, the later part of the 1990’s, did that basket become available for sale. Not only are we proud to share the history of this particular Olla Basket with you, but subsequently we have come to find out that the wife of one of our company’s vice presidents is a descendant of Cordelia’s. It’s a small world after all. She, too, has a basket or two in her home and promises to one day share another part of her family’s legacy with all of us. We impatiently await that time.
The Whirling Logs
Artist: ApacheDescription: (1920) | Eleven-pointed star in center is supporting eleven hour-glass elements and eleven whirling logs with a feather motif at the rim. Willow, devil’s claw over three-rod foundation.
When the first Navajo man and woman emerged from the underworld called The Third World, a water world, they bore a son. A few years later, the son was so intrigued about the stories he had heard about the underworld that he went back to the place of emergence and while looking down fell in. His father then went after him to rescue his son among the endless rivers of the underworld. After uniting there, they were thrown into the classic ancient legend, similar to the Illiad and Odyssey, where on their long and perilous journey they experienced and learned the heritage and lessons of Navajo medicine, which all had originated there. At the completion of their journey, harboring all of this valuable knowledge, they were attempting to exit the underworld when they were attacked by The Water Monsters. Just as the father and son were about to perish, two logs formed a cross in the water and four Yeis (holy messengers) appeared at the tips of the logs, forming a swastika-like shape. The Yeis promised to save them if the father and son would get on to the logs and believe in them, giving the Yeis their full confidence and faith. The father and son agreed and the Yeis whirled them back to the present world and safety. Thus, the Whirling Logs became the symbol that to this day is cherished as a reminder of the link that preserves their sacred medicine and traditions. The Navajo were forbidden to incorporate this symbol on their art during the 1930s because of Nazi Germany, but it is still seen in the traditional sand paintings that are used to cure their people during the Yei-Be-Chai healing ceremonies.
Whirling logs are seen in Apache, Yavapai, Hopi, Havasupai, Chemehuevi, Pima and Tohono O’odham baskets as well as in various Great Basin and California basketry. Here they take on the concept of the four cardinal directions, as well as a depiction of one complete lifespan, or generation: the four points of the symbol representing birth, youth, old age and death. As seen in examples here in the gallery, some Pima weavers artistically linked several of the whirling logs together in continuous circular patterns, thus binding one generation to another both in the past and future. This motif was sacred to many Native Americans throughout the Americas.
Hopefully this information will answer the question about the use of the symbol and release the stigma associated with it. Not only have Native Americans utilized it in their culture, but so have the Hindus, Buddhists, Chinese, early Egyptians, Phoenicians, Etruscans, Greeks and Romans, long before it was stigmatized by its use in such a negative fashion.