Edith Bonde, Hubbard Lake (MI) Ojibwe elder, photographed in 1975 weaving a splint basket, she was about 67 then.
Bonde's black ash splint porcupine globe (7.5" tall x 8.5" diameter), 1980. A perfect work of art.

"I was born in the north woods of northern Michigan, raised in lumber camps, where my father worked and our family stayed all winter, so I got very little education except nature. When my mother put me off her lap, so she could work at her baskets, she gave me some scrap material to play with -- that's how I learned to make baskets. I make only authentic Indian baskets, as my ancestors made. I work in my kitchen, after the splints are off the log, using only a sharp knife and a pair of scissors. I use black ash only. This is more of a hobby for me, I do not make a lot of baskets, perhaps 15 a year, and I only make them on order, which I never catch up with." -- Edith Bonde, 1975 letter to Smithsonian Institution

Basketry Menu

Basketry, Native Philosophy, Environment -- botanical guide to the plants used. Pollution kills basket ash trees

California Basketry Story: Susan Billy, Pomo, describes 4 traditional Pomo basket plants, modern difficulties finding material. California Indian Basketmakers' Association -- pesticide difficulties.

Qualla Eastern Cherokee (Tsalagi) basketry -- Some history, traditions, plants used.

Gallery of baskets for utility, not art -- burden-carry, storage, fish trap, water bottles.

Multi-tribal Gallery: Northeast -- New England (U.S.) and Canada: Basketmaker-family traditions, from many tribes

Dat-so-la-lee, Washoe woman whose life was fabricated by dealer to sell baskets (falsification of tradition, history, exploitation) how to briefly to describe this: (a) She was a real artist; (b) She was exploited; (c) The cynical fabrications. (NOT DONE)

Linkpage of other Native basketry sites, articles, museums, sales galleries, theft notices. Yokuts gambling tray -- $48,000

Bibliography: Native Basketry. Man-in-th-Maze basket (Salt River Pima-Maricopa)

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Philosophy Note: I call Edith's basket "perfect" because it had that effect on me when I first saw it in the travelling Coe collection show in 1987. The size of the porcupines and width of the weavers (horizontal splints) increases toward the equator and diminishes toward the poles. The basket appears to be in a perfect balance with itself, in all its parts.. As I revisted the show, I got to wondering if she'd put an inconspicuous "mistake" under or inside, to let the spirit go in and out freely, as we usually do with beadwork and other tribes do with textile weavings. (Later I learned Pomo basketweavers call this dau, the spirit door.) I also started having strange notions: about what's inside it . . . .

Eventually I prevailed on a functionary to open it and let me look closely. I don't remember if I found a small purposeful mistake, because I suddenly realized that when the basket is open, it holds the whole world, most of which is outside its walls of course, connected out into our reality from within the basket. When closed, the basket holds an egg-shaped piece of darkness, in which lives -- temporarily visiting that one, there -- some kind of weaver-spirit that holds the whole world together. This was my experience of it, and is why I call this "a perfect work of art." Before that time, I had thought of splint baskets -- such as are sold in variety stores for Easter baskets -- as cheap junk.

CREDITS: Photo of Edith Bonde taken at Hubbard Lake, MI in 1975, given to Smithsonian Institution Renwick Gallery for a show of her work there, (Craft Multiples) 1975-76. Black and white photo (Bobby Hansson) of perfect basket from out-of-print catalog of Coe collection, Lost and Found Traditions: Native American Art, 1965-85, University of Washington Press, 1986 and colorized by me from memory seen at the collection's travelling show, 1987. The page direction arrows were made of a piece of the diagonal big-diamond twill-weave from one of Eastern Band Chroke Rowena Bradley's double-woven baskets (Coe collection) that is now all in some California museum.

Webmistress -- Paula Giese Explanatory text and graphics copyright 1995.

Last Updated: Friday, November 08, 1996 - 7:56:05 AM