What were California Indians’ baskets used for and What was so special about the California Indians’ baskets?

Because they relied on wild plants for so much of their diet, California Indians had to know how to make light, strong, and durable baskets.

When gathering nuts, berries, and roots, women carried large, cone-shaped baskets fitted with shoulder straps. They used larger baskets to hold the foods they gathered, particularly acorns, which, if properly stored, could stay fresh for a full year. Some tribes also placed acorn meal in small shallow baskets, then tapped the sides to sift large chunks from the fine flour.

To make baskets in all the shapes and sizes they needed, women had to become expert weavers. They took pride in decorating their works by weaving grasses colored with vegetable dyes to create detailed shapes and patterns.

Some California basket-makers wove “baby baskets” to hold their infants while they worked.

These two baskets woven by Porno Indians in the 1890s are just four and five inches wide. Their small size and intricate patterns display the weaver’s skill.

Some groups also added feathers, beads, and other ornaments.

Today the Porno are particularly well known for their beautiful basketry. To show off their talents, Porno basket-weavers often make spectacular miniature baskets, some as small as a thumbnail.