Prize-winning Baskets

Coiled bowl basket

Coiled bowl basket
circa 1917
Willow, devils claw, cattail-stem foundation
Height: 4.2 in. (9.3 cm.), Diameter: 15.5 in. (34.0 cm.)
Purchase, 2009
(ASM Catalog No. 2008-328-1)

This is an image of Diane D. Dittemore, associate curator of ethnology. She is looking at beaded objects in a storage cabinet.

Text by Diane Dittemore, Associate Curator of Ethnology, February 4, 2011

I chose these two older prizewinning O’odham basketry gems in honor of our Southwest Indian Art Fair (SWIAF) juried competition. SWIAF’s award program is 15 years old, but as these First Place winners attest, juries in southern Arizona have been assigning prizes to fine Native arts for more than a century.

The two objects are distinct in style but represent quality coiled basketry for which the O’odham are rightly famous:

The first three images are of a bowl basket woven of willow and devils claw, with a cattail-stem foundation. It is a traditional bowl shape, with a swastika meander design. The bowl was probably made around 1917, when it received the attached blue ribbon indicating 1st Premium in the 7th Annual Pima Fair, School Division. It is unfortunate that the ribbon did not include a place to record the weaver’s name! She (or possibly he) may have been Tohono O’odham (Papago) or Akimel O’odham (Pima). The Arizona State Museum (ASM) purchased this bowl from an Albuquerque Indian arts dealer in 2009.

The remaining images are of a yucca, devils claw, and beargrass coiled dog figure by Lucy Andrew of Santa Rosa Village on the Tohono O’odham Reservation. It won a first place award in the “Novelties” category at the 1961 Pima County Fair. The dog, whose head was coiled as a separate piece, also bears a tag from the “Papago Self-Help Project,” a Quaker-run cooperative initiative that began in the mid-1950s. Elizabeth Estrada, one of the Quakers who was particularly involved in basketry promotion, sold this dog to the Museum; she had been the organizer of the O’odham crafts booth at the county fair.

Today another cooperative, the Tohono O’odham Basketry Organization (TOBO) operates under the auspices of the private nonprofit Tohono O’odham Community Action organization (TOCA). Founded in 1996, TOBO is “dedicated to revitalizing traditional basketry as a valued cultural practice and a viable economic opportunity.” TOBO offers members the opportunity to sell their basketry through a means that better rewards them for the time and hard work. ASM is committed to the promotion of both traditional and contemporary Native art, and has been honored to have TOBO as a regular participant in SWIAF.

Coiled dog figure

Coiled dog figure
circa 1961
Lucy Andrew (Tohono O'odham)
Santa Rosa Village, Tohono O'odham Reservation
Southern Arizona
Yucca, devils claw, and beargrass
Width: 5.5 in. (12.0 cm.), Height: 10.2 in. (22.5 cm.)
(ASM Catalog No. e-4645ab)



Breazeale, J.F.

  • 1923 The Pima and his Basket. Arizona Archaeological and Historical Society, Tucson

Cain, Thomas

  • 1962 Pima Indian Basketry. Heard Museum of Anthropology and Primitive Art. Phoenix, Arizona

Dewald, Terry

  • 1979 The Papago Indians and their Basketry. Tucson.

Fontana, Bernard L.

  • 1983 Pima and Papago: Introduction. In Southwest, Handbook of North American Indians, vol. 10, edited by Alfonso Ortiz. William Sturtevant, general editor. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C, pp. 125–136.
  • 1983 History of the Papago. In Southwest, Handbook of North American Indians, vol. 10, edited by Alfonso Ortiz. William Sturtevant, general editor. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C, pp. 137–160  (dog illustrated on p. 146.)

Kissell, Mary Lois

  • 1916 “Basketry of the Papago and Pima Indians.” American Museum of Natural History Anthropological Papers, Volume XVII, Part IV, New York.

Robinson, Bert

  • 1954 The Basketweavers of Arizona. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Shreve, Margaret

  • 1943 Modern Papago Basketry. M.A. Thesis, University of Arizona, Tucson.

Tanner, Clara Lee

  • 1968 Southwest Indian Craft Arts. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, p. 35 (dog is illustrated).
  • 1983 Indian Baskets of the Southwest. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.