Knox College has an interesting collection of baskets and pots largely from Southwestern Native American peoples. This collection was the subject of a 1997 exhibit, Knox College Native Basketry and Pottery, in which students researched and wrote about some of these works in the collection. However, much is still unknown about some of these works and their traditional uses. Additionally, some were made for a white tourist audience and were never actually used by their creators. There remains many opportunities for novel and important research using Knox College's Native Arts Collection.
Flat Plaque Coiled Basket
Hopi, Second Mesa, AZ
Grass and yucca
Accession # 02-1-72
This coiling technique is unique to the Hopi on the Second Mesa and has many important uses including everyday food processing as well as ceremonial uses. Often flat coiled plaques such as this one will be used to hold objects or corn meal during ceremonies.
c. 20th century
Accession # K-27-1
The artform of Acoma pottery has existed for thousands of years, but this piece is a prime example of the Acomita Polychrome style revived in New Mexico in the 20th century. Families of Southwestern potters often have matriarchs who train female relatives in pottery traditions. While there is no documented information on Lucy Garcia, the Garcia family has been prominent in the production of Acoma pottery over the past century. Pottery is a source of cultural pride to Native American communities and clay from older pots is often recycled as a means of incorporating the ancestral past. The form of this piece resembles an early olla storage pot and is covered with a white slip and traditional decorative patterns painted in thick black lines and areas of orange. Circular bands around the rim and base symbolize the cyclical unity of life and the seasons. The geometric designs also feature stylized images of parrots, sacred birds representing the rainy season and seen as bearers of lifegiving water in arid Southwestern regions.
-- Description by Gregory Gilbert, 2019
Navajo Wedding Basket
Navajo [possibly Paiute or Ute Tribe] AZ, UT
n.d. [possibly 1960s]
Woven basket with natural dyes
Accession # 2020.x21.1
From the Native Basketry and Pottery exhibition: "One of the few types of baskets the Navajo make is the Wedding basket. Wedding baskets may be used in various ceremonies, but are required for wedding ceremonies. In traditional baskets, red and black were the only colors used. Wedding baskets are characterized by a band of red that encircles the basket and black triangles that surround the red." During ceremonies, the basket often is used to hold corn meal and can later be inverted to be used as a drum.
While there is still discussion about what exactly the design symbolizes, it is accepted that the design does have a particular meaning. One interpretation is that the unique design of these baskets symbolizes the journey that one takes through life beginning from birth. As a person moves through life they encounter struggles as symbolized by the black areas, eventually reaching marriage symbolized by the red bands. As one grows older they encounter darkness again, but also increasingly experience enlightenment until death when they join the spiritual world.