Native Americans for generations made baskets as essential tools for their work. Almost every tribe had their own basket-making traditions. Many of these baskets are highly collectible for their beautiful workmanship and their ties to American history.

Hopi Baskets

Hopi Native American baskets are among the most collectible. These baskets are made using wicker and coiling techniques. The Hopis also made beautiful trays using the plating technique. Baskets were made of sumac and rabbit bush when using the wicker technique and rabbitbrush and yucca when using the coiling technique. Baskets usually contained elaborate geometric patterns created with natural dyes.

Hopi Baskets: via Wikimedia Commons

Apache Baskets

Baskets made by Apache Native Americans are also collectible. Since this tribe was nomadic, their selection of materials was more varied although devil’s claw, willow, and yucca root were popular choices. Some of the most collectible baskets were burden baskets that are cone-shaped and usually contain a strip of buckskin around their top. Almost all Apache baskets are made using the wrapping technique. Many feature beautiful animal motifs.

Apache Baskets: via Wikimedia Commons

Navajo Baskets

The Navajo tribe also made beautiful baskets. Many of these baskets feature animal motifs and are made from sumac, willow, and yucca. Women usually wove these baskets by working around in concentric circles. These baskets often incorporate red and black.

Navajo Basket: Flickr|Quinn Dombrowski

Twana Language Group Baskets

Native Americans speaking the Twana language often made soft twined baskets. These baskets often incorporate bird, wolves or dog designs near their rim. Many also contain large zigzag patterns.

Skokomish Coiled Basket: Flickr|Wally Gobetz

Makah and Nuu-Chah-Nulth Baskets

The Makah and Nuu-chah-nulth often made twined baskets displaying whale and canoe motifs. One of the most unusual baskets is there whale hat baskets containing an onion-shaped knob that tribesman wore out to sea when looking for whales.

Makah or Nuu-chah-nulth Baskets: via Wikimedia Commons

Tlingit Baskets

The Tlingit Native Americans of the Northwest Pacific Coast made beautiful baskets using finely split spruce root. These are among the very few traditional Native American baskets to incorporate embroidery techniques.

Tlingit Basket: via Wikimedia Commons

If you find a basket at an estate sale, then examine it carefully. Those baskets with the finest weaves are the most valuable. The condition of the basket significantly affects its value. In particular, look for signs that any restoration work has been done, as this can substantially lower the baskets value. Usually, the more complex the design, the higher the basket’s value. A basket that shows signs of general wear are not normally lower in value.
Once you obtain a Native American basket, then be sure to care for it properly. Keep it away from direct sunlight and from fluctuations in heat. Also, make sure that the basket is not exposed to excessive humidity.
Native American baskets are beautiful and functional. They are an outstanding way to remember the very first settlers of America.
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