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Atsugewi Storage Basket

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RTCFA No. NA 0535
Atsugewi Storage Basket
Artist: Unknown
Hazel rods, split pine root, bear grass, split redbud and split maidenhair fern, 5 x 13.75 x 6 in. (12.7 x 43.9 x 15.2 cm).

Geographic Location: Northeastern California
Region: California
Group / Tribe: Atsugewi, close to Pit River

Description: Baskets were an essential part of most Native Californian’s lives from being carried in a baby cradle to the harvesting, preparation, cooking, and storage of food and most everything else in the household. Women traditionally were the basket weavers, but men would also make certain types of baskets for fish or small animal traps. The oval shape of this basket is unusual and suggests that it may have a special Native use such as to store feathers or was made as a virtuoso show piece by a talented weaver. The Atsugewi are from the northeastern Sierra Nevada in California and are one of a group of tribes that made similar but still usually distinguishable basketry. Subtle shifts in use of materials help distinguish one group’s baskets from the next, although because many designs are regionally shared it can be very difficult to identify exactly where a basket is originally from. The Atsugewi are also known as the “Hat Creek People” and are one of several indigenous groups that fall under the name “Pit River Indians” of Shasta County in Northern California.

Provenance: Purchased from Kania-Ferrin Gallery, Santa Fe, NM

*Coe wrote:* There would be a natural tendency to call this basket Achumawi, but this particular small tribal group of the Hokan language group live on Hat Creek and are referred to by that designation. In turn, the Atsugewi were divided into two groups: the Atsuge proper, and the Apwaruge, near neighbors to the east. The latter tended to produce soft twined Tule baskets, while the Atsuge used the materials hazelrods, split pine root, bear grass, split redbud and split maidenhair fern, creating a tougher type of construction in their work. This rare type of storage basket would seem to be an Atsuge piece. Its oval shape is exceptional. The design field, composed of a series of saw-teeth centered by a double diamond is endemic to the Achumawi complex and also appears in their beadwork. See NA 0552, NA 1076 and NA 1131. Because I had previously acquired the beaded belt in the same design, I added this woven example for comparative purposes. When I saw this covered basket at John Kania’s gallery in Santa Fe, it immediately called to my mind the similar designs on the beaded belt (NA 0552) I had previously acquired from Toby Herbst. They seemed like design equivalents in different media.