Central Council of Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (Tlingit & Haida) was recently donated two baskets – a Tlingit spruce root basket (
shéiyi xaat kákgu
) and a small basket with a whale motif made by a member of the Makah tribe of Washington. The baskets were a part of a private collection belonging to Maxine Gresset, the late mother of Marie Kauffman of Camp Verde, Arizona.
Marie shared that her desire to return the basket was simply based on a feeling that it was the right thing to do.
“My mother would be pleased to know the spruce root basket has returned to its place of origin,” said Marie.
Steve Henrikson, Curator of Collections for the Alaska State Museum, identified one of the baskets as being Tlingit spruce root in the “ginger jar” form based on Chinese pottery containers.
Basket making is one of the oldest Tlingit art forms and our Southeast Alaska indigenous people produced some of the finest examples of the two-strand twining weaving method. Spruce root baskets were water-tight vessels that typically exhibited bold geometric designs.
“Although the lidded basket is a bit faded, it’s still in very good shape,” said Cultural Resource Specialist Harold Jacobs. “Tlingit weavers used their incredible skills to imitate many complex shapes in spruce roots…teapots, bottles, even dolls with arms and legs. In this case, the shape of the basket imitates the lidded pots from China called ginger jars."
“The spirit of our ancestors and culture flow through this basket,” said President Richard
Peterson. “It is always a good feeling when an item returns home.”
The spruce root basket will be properly assessed and documented and eventually made available for study by those interested in weaving or Tlingit art forms.
(Thank You) to Ms. Kauffman for returning the basket to its homeland!