Anthropology Curatorial Postcard 12-30-20

Queen of the Basket Makers

Many of you have heard of Datsolalee the famous Washoe basket weaver also known as Louisa Keyser, but you may know few details of her life and work. She made this small coiled basket in 1896. It is the second basket listed in the ledger of Abe Cohn, owner of the Emporium, a Carson City shop known for selling Native American basketry and curios. Except for baskets she wove during her free time and personally sold or gifted, Datsolalee wove baskets exclusively for the Emporium. This basket, numbered LK No. 2 in the Emporium ledger, was purchased by Dr. S.L. Lee, a Carson City physician and friend of the Cohn’s. Dr. Lee was an avid collector of Native American basketry. This beautifully made willow (Salix sp.) basket with bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) design is the earliest work of Datsolalee in the Nevada State Museum ethnographic basketry collection. Its form and design show her evolution away from the traditional Washoe utilitarian basket toward the degikup (globular) shape. Dr. Lee also kept a ledger of his basketry collection, which provides details about his baskets and their weavers. In Dr. Lee’s ledger he writes, “A Dot-So-La-Lee called the Queen of the Basket Makers. I knew her years before she gained fame as a basket weaver. She was residing on the Keyser Ranch in Douglas County, Nevada.” He then writes, “That she is a wonderful artist, no one who has seen her work can question.” According to Dr. Lee’s ledger he anxiously watched and waited while Datsolalee completed this basket. “I saw it almost daily from the time she commenced until she finished it, which consumed just 35 days.”

Thank you to the Washoe Cultural Resource Advisory Committee (WCRAC) for their continued assistance with Washoe related research.

Dr. Anna J. Camp will give a short presentation on this Datsolalee basket during the Museum’s Curator’s Corner program from 1:00 until 3:00 pm on Wednesday, January 6th.