Date of Award
Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS)
Contrary to the absence of Native American women in many reports and journals of early explorers and colonists, Native American women from the Coastal Algonquin and Wasco/Wishram communities played a central role in early trade with Euro-Americans through their traditional socioeconomic status as agricultural and subsistence gatherers and inter/intra-tribal tradeswomen. These native women harvested available natural resources for food, bark, and fiber with which they fed their communities and constructed baskets in standard units of measurement for trade reflecting that pre-contact trade networks and food value systems were well established and highly valued. Through an examination of scholarly research regarding the culture, history, and basket technology of the Coastal Algonquin and Wasco/Wishram this study reveals how the socioeconomic status of these native women was altered and disenfranchised. While Algonquin and Wasco/Wishram tradeswomen provided the majority of the calorie intake for their communities, owned the homes, villages, and land-base they made and worked, were politically influential and socially autonomous, they were cut out of the developing international trade and market economy, and marginalized by the growing Euro-American population. Basket making as a traditional cultural practice produced functional utilitarian tools, household items, and surplus packaging for trade; it also defined native culture and during the course of colonization enabled some native communities to continue important cultural practices and even establish federal recognition.
The pre-contact egalitarian cultural practices, agricultural and subsistence work, and basket technology of women from the Coastal Algonquin and Wasco/Wishram native communities is described and discussed, followed by the impact of early trade and the developing new market economy. The introduction of new trade items influenced basket technology differently within each native community, yet the impact on native tradeswomen and their socioeconomic status is similar. Changes in basket technology and construction reveal the manner in which native women accommodated and resisted the cultural impact of the growing Euro-American population and new market economy. Changes and time frames are organized using major basket making periods of Classic Period, Transitional Period, and Hiatus Period in conjunction with pre-contact/early contact, colonial era, and early industrial era. Native communities across the continent experienced the phases of contact and colonization in successive waves making the use of numerical dates cumbersome when discussing the Algonquin who experienced contact and cultural disruption much earlier than the interior Wasco/Wishram. In this regard, basket making periods were also experienced in different sequences dependent on the degree of colonial influence and disruption to each native community. While Native American women were either left out of or stereotyped in early research, this examination utilizes a range of historical studies, along with more contemporary work focused on reconstructing the cultural context of native women lives to show how colonization impacted native women's socioeconomic status.
Pickering, Heidi J., "From Fishing Weirs to Fancy Baskets: How Changes in Native American Basketry Forms Reflect Changes in the Economic Independence of Native American Women during Colonization" (2010). Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) Student Scholarship. 70.