Sípnuuk'anamahach (Karuk, lit. little storage basket), je:lo’ch (Hupa lit. storage basket (diminutive)), tswachach (Wiyot, small twined trinket basket), perhcherkws (Yurok, showy basket, basket for valuables)
"Sípnuuk is the Karuk word used to designate a trinket basket. These are finely woven baskets, most often round and some are lidded, though most are not, and are usually by weavers as gifts to be used to hold valuables such as dentalia and the like. As with caps the greater the number of stitches the more prized the sípnuuk became.”
Baskets made for the trade, showing European influences of form yet maintaining a foundational Indigenous design aesthetic are far more than is regularly seen on the shelf. These baskets are woven with design work from bottom to top, sometimes even having designs inside the basket either placed there or the exterior designs showing through due to the weaving process.
A lidded trinket basket, seen here to the left, from 1920, woven by an unknown Yurok weaver, is adorned with a Morningstar design on the body of the basket, hides an interesting base. The flower design around the start of the basket at the base is trimmed in skip-skip design (alternating maidenhair fern and Beargrass) that is repeated and echoed at the rim and on the lid.
The next basket was woven by an unknown Karuk weaver c. 1940. Seeing baskets covered in maidenhair fern is always a treat. This delicate fern overlay shows the expertise of the basketweaver and her steady hand at working with such a fragile material, as well as highlighting whatever design is woven into the basket, usually in porcupine quills or like here in beargrass.
We don't know the identity of the weaver, but the four stitches of beargrass overlay in a field of woven spruce roots is the intentionality of a signature.
Many weavers would leave signatures like this in their baskets, but the identities of the weavers and the people who could interpret what the signatures mean have passed on.
The majority of the time we will see these baskets displayed but won’t know what the bottom of the basket actually looks like, or the interior is hidden from view. With trinket baskets especially, we are missing really lovely moments that tie in to the overall design work of the basket.
Some have surprising design choices that differ from the main design theme. Make sure to take a second look at the baskets in these cases, they are showing lovely moments that otherwise would be missed.