Makah Cultural and Research Center Online Museum

Basketry

In late spring, summer and early fall, Makahs gather basketry materials. In winter women did the weaving. The pattern is ancient. Nearly 1,000 baskets, mats, and hats have come from Ozette; 150 from Hoko River. Styles and materials match the work done by Neah Bay women in historic times and today.

Cedarbark was-and is-the mainstay of the basketry. It is stripped from young trees when the dap rises in the spring, letting it peel readily. Only the smooth inner bark is taken home. It is dried, then folded and stored. In weaving, a woman can easily split strips of whatever thickness and width she needs.

BasketryMost Ozette baskets are all cedar bark. Others combine materials, drawing on the qualities each has to offer. A rigid and sturdy warp of cedar boughs, for instance, may be combined with the flexible, yet strong, weft of cedar root or wild cherry bark. Many such baskets were for carrying. Their open mesh allowed water and sand to pass through; their shape and rigid rim let them be set down, yet conveniently open for loading things into.

Cedar root provided raw material for fishhook leaders and nets. It doesn't absorb water as readily as bark does. Cattail, tule, and cedarbark were made into mats used to cover temporary shelters, and as wall liners, mattresses, and for covering canoes to keep the wood from drying and checking. Ozette mats were mostly cedar bark, flexible and durable even when damp.

Beargrass also is represented in Ozette baskets. It is an alpine plant, yet it grows at Queets, south of Makah territory. Seemingly, this beargrass moved downslope as ice-age glaciers capped the Olympic Mountains, and this one lowland location it not only continues to thrive, but also grows much wider and longer than in the mountains. Makah women today trade to get beargrass for their baskets.

Several of the baskets within the buried houses were found with their contents still in place. One held a rolled strip of cedar bark and 10 small cedarbark wallets with cattail seed hulls, gull bones, and feathers. Another had four cedarbark wallets, two wooden combs, one spindle whorl, one bundle of yarn, and five bone awls. Others held fishing gear, or whaling harpoon heads individually sheathed in pouches of folded cedar bark.

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All content for this exhibit is © Makah Cultural and Research Center.

The Community Museum is a project of community organizations and Tribes across the Olympic Peninsula, and the University of Washington.
Support for the project comes from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Preston, Gates and Ellis, LLP.