Tlingit Spruce Root Rattle-Top Basket

Value (2012) | $2,500 Auction$3,500 Auction

It actually belonged to my great-aunt, who moved to Alaska in 1935, and she was a schoolteacher. She collected quite a few Alaskan artifacts, and this is just one that she had in her collection that I've had in a curio cabinet for about 20 years.

This beautiful basket is the work of Native Americans in Southeastern Alaska. It's the Tlingit. And if I was to catalogue this, I'd call it a Tlingit spruce-root twined rattle-top basket. It's a mixture of the spruce root fiber and native grasses. And it starts off like a kind of wild wig of twine, and it takes approximately 300 hours to make a basket of this nature.


They're very fine baskets. This was a great source of revenue for the Tlingits. They're a coastal group. In the springtime, the women would go and strip the roots of the Sitka spruce. And then when the winter months set in, they would spend time weaving these incredibly delicate baskets that have a lot of stitches per inch. And then the decoration you see on here, in this case they're aniline dyed, which is chemical dyes. You saw the dyes coming in of this nature in the 20th century. The rattle-top aspect of it is that in the very top here, you were aware that it made a noise.

Right. I thought it might be seeds or something like that in there. (rattling)

It could be pebbles, and it could be... It sounds very soft. It doesn't sound like lead shot. So no, there's no telling without destroying your basket-- which we won't be doing here today-- what's under there. They're very flexible baskets. And a lot of times, you see them with a lot of breaks on the rims because they're very delicate and they break on the seams easily. This basket was probably made at the time that your aunt collected it, in the 1930s. These are truly fabulous works of art created by these women in the coastal region. Well, in today's auction market, a basket of this nature would sell for between $2,500 and $3,500.


Appraisal Details

Franklin, TN
Appraised value (2012)
$2,500 Auction$3,500 Auction
Myrtle Beach, SC (June 23, 2012)
Tribal Arts

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