Cedar root baskets are used by many different tribes in various regions. Cedar is popular among the Coastal Salish but also with the Interior Salish. Cedar root baskets are valued not only for the aesthetic appeal but for the many uses that they provide. These baskets carried roots and berries and served as cradle baskets for babies. If woven tightly enough the baskets served as cooking pots. People would heat up stones in a fire and then add the stones into the basket to cook meals.Cedar root baskets are very durable and many have survived many years of use and storage.
Some of the natural materials used in making the baskets include; cedar roots, cherry wood, spruce roots, birch bark, sap and pine needles. Pine needle and birch bark baskets are also popular in the Okanagan Valley.
From my own personal experiences, I have learned how to make pine needle baskets, and birch bark baskets however I am still looking for a teacher to share their knowledge of cedar root basket weaving.
Some of the tools that I’ve used to make pine needle and birch bark baskets included: darning needles, bone awls, metal awls, knives, artificial sinew, tacks, x-acto knives, and other assorted tools. The beauty of evolution and adapting to changing technologies is it often makes work lighter and faster.
Birch bark baskets are often rimmed with split cedar roots. At first this task is quite time consuming, difficult and it truly tests one’s patience. When we gather cedar roots, we look for sandy areas where it is easy to dig out long sections of the root. The reason why longer split roots are desired is for consistency along the rim for birch bark baskets. Pine needle baskets are coiled and then wrapped and stitched with sinew. Many styles of pine needle and cedar root baskets include lids.
Note: The Cedar Root Baskets shown above are the property of the Lake Country Museum and Archives. They were generously donated by Margot Maclaren and Roger Macdonnell.