Willow and spruce root woven basket with hide strap

Outside diameter 10 inches.

Spruce root baskets were relied on heavily by Yukon First Nations. They were used as containers, storage bins and cooking vessels.

The spruce roots were collected by women in early spring because the roots were still fairly easy to peel at that time. Women would harvest medium to large size trees carefully in order not to damage the tree by pulling up too many roots. The roots were dug up by a pointed stick approximately three feet from the tree. This is where the roots were ideal for weaving. Sometimes if the roots could not be used right away, they would be rolled up and kept damp until the weaver was ready. The roots were split by using one's fingernail to rip the root into smaller strands. Once split, the roots must be dried, otherwise they would get moldy. To make them soft again before weaving, the roots were soaked to make them more pliable.

The baskets were made by wrapping one root around another, and then securing the intertwined roots in a loop. From this point the basket was woven in a circular twining pattern. The weave of cooking baskets would have to be as tight as possible in an attempt to keep water from seeping out.

Cooking baskets were typically used to boil meat or fish. Hot rocks from the fire would be put in the basket until the water boiled. Spruce root will swell with the addition of water and can typically seal the vessel from leaking. However, the weave in these baskets is fairly large so it was more likely that these baskets were made as storage containers.


Kluane Museum of History, Burwash Landing

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