Native American Basktry, Part 4

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While the Panamint color palette was likely the most extensive of any tribal group using all naturally occurring colored material, the introduction of aniline dyes into the 19th century West met acceptance by a few tribes. The weavers of the Hopi of Arizona and the Jicarilla Apache of New Mexico to this day produce vibrantly colored baskets both for their own use and for resale. Thus, some tribes which seldom, if ever, portrayed realistic life forms on their basketry now did so in response to the demand for more elaborately designed pieces; and the introduction of more colorful baskets was certainly in partial response to Euro-American market forces.

Clearly, the act of collecting Native American basketry in the late 19th century and early decades of the 20th was not merely one of providing the weavers a new market for their work, but actually helped fuel new artistic directions. The weavers, responding with resiliency and creativity to new forces, initiated a vibrant and, for many tribal groups, short-lived resurgence of Native American basketry. The continuing pressures of Euro-Americans on Native American populations and cultures into the 20th century proved increasingly devastating for many tribes and, as the traditional cultural underpinnings continued to erode, market forces alone were not sufficient to maintain the vitality and, in many instances, the actual survival of the basket makers' art. Today, there is renewed hope in a few regions, as some basket making tribes are showing evidence of renewed cultural and artistic vigor.