Native American


Artist: Unknown
Culture/People: Meskwaki
Place: Wisconsin or Iowa, Great Lakes, United States
Media: Basswood, dye, and cordage
Dims: 19.5 x 15 in. (49.5 x 38.1 cm).
Date: c. 1890
RTC No: NA0272
Gift of Ralph T. Coe, 2011


Basswood was ripped upwards in long, vertical strips and then pulled hard in order to be detached from a suitable tree. It was not only used for bags such as this one but also for items as diverse as dolls and rope. The strips of fiber were carefully culled, matched, and dyed and then hung vertically over a horizontal rod so that a bag shape was formed. Then, the vertical strips were woven by a horizontal form of twining at intervals of about 3/4 of an inch to one another, forming a counterpoint to the vertical basswood strands. An open-weave decking completed the top of the bag.

This is a middle-sized bag, occasionally, some double this length and considerably deeper were made. The beauty is in the simplicity of approach. Ted Coe mentioned that “there is a ‘tie-dye’ effect of the coloration and a lightness to the resultant fabric that vaguely recalls [to me] Polynesian weaving due to the inherent smoothness of the fabric.”

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