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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Icons of our Native American heritage

I don't know a whole lot about these wonderful handcrafted baskets. I just know they are the only items you find floating around in our Texas material culture that speak of our original peoples.

Woodland Indians, dispossessed of their native lands in the American South, migrated to Texas even before the Republic years. Cherokee, Shawnee, Kickapoo and some unique peoples associated with the Creek Nation known as Coushatti or better "Koasati." Today they enjoy the only official Native American "reservation" left in Texas. All others were banished before the Civil War.

The pre-Republic understanding they had with General Sam Houston seems to have preserved them miraculously unto this day. Known to occasionally get caught up in warpaths against whites with their kinsmen, the Coushatta as we know them today became peaceful neighbors and today are celebrated citizens.

And they make these wonderful baskets.. out of.. pine needles! Yes, the Koasati, some of whom are based in Louisiana, make these delightful pine needle baskets, and some are effigy baskets of ducks, turkeys and owls and even bees. Sometimes they adorn them with pinecone scales and colorful stitching. I have collected them for years, always on the hunt for something authentically Indian... especially TEXAS Indian. And beside these baskets, there is not much left of the forest dwellers of Texas past.

I assume, as in most Native American customs, that it is mostly the women of the tribe who create these treasures. If you are lucky, you find them with the maker's tags attached to the baskets, telling you exactly who made them. Below is a photo-postcard from the 1960's of Coushatta women in native dress.

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