The Rare Occurrence of Feathers in Chumash Baskets

TIMBROOK, Jan - Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

California Indians have long been considered among the finest basket makers in the world. While most basketry materials come from plant sources, some California peoples have also included animal materials -- porcupine quill overlay, bird quill stitching, and even whole feathers inserted tc cover the basket's entire surface, as is particularly famous among the Pomo of northern California.

What has not been widely recognized in the literature or among curators and collectors is that Chumash weavers of south-central California also on rare occasions included feathers in their weaving material. To date, only about half a dozen examples with feather quill stitching have been noted among the few hundred surviving baskets. Further, with no known cultural precedent among the Chumash, fluffy white feathers were inserted into the coil foundation of one extraordinary basket. This presentation dscusses the little-known use of feathers in Chumash basketry.