How much do you know about Hanis Coos Basketry?

photo by The Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians

Example of a Hanis Coos Basket. Photo by The Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians

My best guess, as much as I did before we asked contemporary Hanis Coos artist Sara Siestreem to join the roster for the Byting Willows exhibit. What a big surprise when I opened my email two weeks ago and found a picture of her finished basket for the exhibit; together with a wonderful background story about its meaning!

Excited I tried to find more information about Hanis Coos basketry – not an easy task,  I tell you. A google search resulted in a couple of images on the official tribal website as well as entries on a few blogs with either ethnobotanical background  or cultural focus.

The materials used are spruce root, conifers and bear grass which are all local to Oregon. It seems that most baskets have utilitarian use as storage devices for food, like acorns and berries, or traps to fish lampreys. The decoration consists of  many different designs of mostly geometric nature, some of which can be interpreted as part of a story such as the arrow design.

That about sums everything up I could find. Not much, don’t you think?



One thought on “How much do you know about Hanis Coos Basketry?

  1. My Name is Nan MacDonald and I’v been weaving with the Coos folks down here on the south coast for about the last 25 years. Actually there are several sources and good folks working on researching, cataloging and reviving Coos and related south coast Tribal basketry. There are some magnificent Coos and Coos related ( ie Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw) baskets at the Hearst Museum in California. The Coos Maritime Museum in Northbend has an excellent collection that was curated by Coquille Tribal Anthropologist Denni Hockema ( Tribal member and Elder). Some of the baskets attributed to these folks, are far superior in design and construction than being described as a simple conifer root baskets. In addition to Conifer Roots (really were just talking Spruce and Cedar) – one finds a masterful use of split natural and mud died Cattail leaf with prolific use of Bear Grass over lay. Several contemporary Coos Tribal Weavers, including Ms Siestreem, should be acknowledged here – Charlie Moxlie, Sara and Heidi Helms, Courtney Krossman and Coos/Coquille descendants Julie Goff and Ray Chase- all whom I’ve had the great pleasure of weaving with. To understand what appears as a absence of archival baskets available through historical research ( as compared to basket producing cultures such as the Hupa/Karuk or Yurok Tribes) one must first understand where the people and their baskets went after contact by European settlers. Removal from their ancestral lands, where generations of basket material producing patches were cultivated – to reservations far away, caused an interruption to the whole basket making process. For some families, it simply never came back. Bravo to this generation of Tribal weavers. It takes great dedication and commitment to make “good” baskets.


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