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Apache Burden Basket


Item Number: DR 433
Tribal Affiliation: Apache
Artist: Unknown
Medium: Willow, buckskin and tin
Age: Circa mid – late1960s
Dimensions: 15” X 11”


SKU: DR 433 Categories: , ,


This hand woven burden basket is made from dark and light willow and is accented with tan buckskin thongs and tin cones at the end of the thongs. As baskets age, the willow turns to a lovely golden tan color as evident on this nearly 50 year old basket. The accent colors used for geometric patterns come from the outer bark of the willow. It is carefully woven in alternating bands around the inside and outside. The use of negative space accents are found on the inside. The buckskin carrying head strap is still in place, as are the buckskin strips on each of four points around the basket. The band encircling the top of the basket is a leather wrap, which reinforces the rim of the basket providing more stability and structure. All of the handmade tin cones are still in place and create a musical quality as the basket moves. The bottom of the basket has a reinforcing patch of leather; this was commonly done to prevent the bottom of the basket from wearing out when placed on the ground.

Apache burden baskets were the backpacks of the day, used to tote sticks of firewood, clothing, berries, or roots. These carryall baskets were used by the Apache women either when moving from camp to camp, gathering firewood, or returning from a trip to the trading post. The basket was worn on the back with the tump line across the forehead to bear the weight of the burden. Burden baskets were and are also used in the Sunrise Ceremony, marking a young girl’s passage into womanhood. The tinkling tassel cones, besides being aesthetically pleasing, were practical. They not only kept cougars and snakes away, they also warned sons-in-law as their mothers-in-law approached, following the age-old Apache tradition of keeping distance between generations. Today burden baskets are often hung outside the door of homes to represent leaving your burdens at the door before entering.

Condition: The basket is in original excellent condition. It is very tightly and masterfully woven with no stitch loss. The patina of the 50+ year old willow, the softness of the buckskin, and the tarnishing on the tin cones all attest to the age and quality of the basket.
Provenance:  Acquired from a gentleman from Arizona.
Recommended Reading: Apache Indian Baskets by Clara Lee Tanner, and Baskets of the Southwest by Clara Lee Tanner

Additional information

Weight 40 oz