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The Choctaw are excellent basket makers, although their work at the present time is greatly inferior to that of a generation ago. The best baskets are made of narrow strips of cane, Arundinaria macrosperma (Choctaw, uske), though now, at Bayou Lacomb, they are using the stems of palmetto, Serrenoa serrulata (Choctaw, tala), as cane is no longer found nearby, and to obtain it a journey has to be made to Pearl river, some fifteen or twenty miles away.
The baskets now made, with few exceptions, are very crude and rather poorly formed. Brilliant aniline dyes are used in the place of the more subdued native colors. Large numbers of small baskets provided with handles are made and exchanged in the stores of the nearby towns for various goods; these are purchased by strangers and taken away as examples of native art.
Kishe’ (pack basket). The bottom is rectangular; the top flares on two sides. Extreme height, 21 inches. Made entirely of natural colored cane, no dyes being used. The strap (aseta) passes through four loops of the cane, as are shown in the illustration.
This particular basket was made at Bayou Lacomb about five years ago by Pisatuntema (Emma).
Taposhake shakapa (basket elbow [shape]) .—A very old specimen of this peculiar basket is shown. This is made of cane, some parts being colored yellow and red with native dyes.
Taposhake chufa (basket pointed). A typical specimen is shown. This is claimed by the Choctaw to be one of the oldest forms made by them.
Covered baskets. These are no longer made, although they are remembered by women as they were fashioned a generation ago. Two examples are here shown:
1.This is a very large double basket, formed of two distinct thicknesses of cane; the lower part is 18 inches in height. The basket is rectangular in form. The cover is about 5 inches in depth. The ornamentation is formed of canes dyed red and yellow. The specimen is a rare example of Choctaw basketry.
2. A very old basket of Choctaw make. This is a double weave, made entirely of natural colored cane, no dyes having been used. The dimensions are: Length, 8k in.; width, 4 in.; depth, 5 in.
Another form of basket, no longer made but formerly common, was designed to hang on the wall. The basket proper was rectangular or slightly oval in shape. One side extended 8 or 10 inches above the other and was provided with a loop at the top, by means of which the basket was suspended from a nail or peg.
The sieve, winnowing basket, and large flat basket, or tapa, are described in the section treating of the preparation of food.
The Choctaw at Bayou Lacomb have no knowledge of mats ever having been made or used in their tribe.